What Does Social Science Tell Us About the Link Between the Presence of Firearms and Violence? Part 1

2 men playing arcade game Fast Draw (Southland Engineering Inc., 1964) at California Extreme Arcade pinball Show 2009. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Author: numb3r

by Alice LoCicero

Note from Kathie MM: This is the first in a two-part series based on the Psychology Today website.

Another day in the US, another mass killing with firearms.

The current public conversation about firearms is disturbing, because when anyone posts or publicly states the possibility of even what are known as “common sense” gun regulations — such as restrictions on automatic weapons or background checks before purchase in all situations (including so-called gun shows) — there is apt to be an aggressive and hostile backlash.

The most recent time when we thought that — after the Las Vegas mass shooting — there might be a glimmer of light where Congress might be willing to at least ban so-called “bump stocks” that allow a semi-automatic weapon to shoot like an automatic weapon — Congress froze and did nothing. (But  the state of Massachusetts has acted to ban them.)

The situation is worrisome, since the number of firearms in the US in 2017 is 300 million, very close to one per person. Perhaps more disturbing still, half of those 300 million firearms are owned by just 3% of Americans; about 9 million Americans own about 150 million firearms.

Let’s talk about just a few highlights of the relevant gun-use science. Early research is summarized briefly in a 2013 Psychology Today article by Professor Brad Bushman.

Professor Bushman recently published another study, with over 1,000 participants, showing that images of firearms — whether used by police or soldiers on the one hand, or by criminals on the other — increased the accessibility of aggressive thoughts.

In 2014, Andrew Anglemyer, a scientist from the University of California, San Francisco, reported that an analysis of the results of 16 studies “… found strong evidence for increased odds of suicide among persons with access to firearms compared with those without access … and moderate evidence for … increased odds of homicide victimization when persons with and without access to firearms were compared.…”

Note from Kathie MM: Please join the dialogue. What will it take to get people to heed social science research about how access to guns increases the propensity to use them? Join us in our discussions of these issues.

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2 Responses to What Does Social Science Tell Us About the Link Between the Presence of Firearms and Violence? Part 1

  1. Pingback: What Does Social Science Tell Us About the Link Between the Presence of Firearms and Violence? Part 2 | Engaging Peace

  2. Barbara says:

    The only group that benefits from discouraging research on gun violence and the suppression of alarming statistics associated with unregulated firearms sales are the manufactureres of those weapons. Would we ever condone a law that tolerates kidnapping and the murder of the victim? Or a law that is accepting of an arsonist’s dangerous hobby? Of course not. The first rule in Dealing with the Devil is: Don’t!

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