Background checks save lives

It’s satisfying and reassuring when the facts confirm common sense.

When 59 percent of Washington state voters passed Initiative 594 last fall, most voted for the initiative with the conviction that it made sense, common sense, to make it more difficult for felons and others barred from owning firearms to get their hands on a gun by requiring background checks for all sales. I-594 closed what had been called the gun-show loophole, requiring background checks for those purchasing firearms not only at gun shops, but any sale, most notably those between private individuals.

What voters didn’t have to back up their convictions at the time was much in the way of data that showed how effective such a law could be. We’re starting to see that data now.

A story in Friday’s Washington Post tells the tale of two states with diverging experiences with such laws.

In Connecticut, the Post’s Jeff Guo reported, researchers at Johns Hopkins University and the University of California at Berkley, have reviewed homicide data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention following Connecticut’s passage in 1994 of a law that required gun purchasers to pass a background check and a gun-safety training course. The study, released last week in the American Journal of Public Health, found that the law reduced homicide deaths by firearms by 40 percent, a difference of 296 lives that were saved between 1996 and 2005.

Certainly, most states saw a drop in violent crime during that period, but Connecticut’s rate fell more quickly and further compared to states where no such law was on the books and compared to a statistical model of Connecticut that estimated what would have happened had the law had not been passed. Going deeper into the numbers, the researchers found that the state’s nonfirearm homicide rate more closely tracked the decline in other states, confirming the law’s effectiveness.

Some of the same researchers also looked at what happened in Missouri after it went in the opposite direction and repealed its background check law in 2007. Law enforcement began seeing more Missouri firearms at crime scenes in Missouri, Iowa and Illinois, and Missouri’s firearm homicide rate spiked 23 percent, an additional 55 to 63 murders each year from 2008 to 2012, according to a Johns Hopkins study published in 2014.

“People assume incorrectly that criminals will do anything and everything in terms of cost and risk to get their hands on a gun,” Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, said in the Post story. “But that simply is not what the data tell us.”

Initiative 594, admittedly an inconvenience for law-abiding gun owners, has enhanced security for all by making it more difficult for felons and others banned from gun ownership to acquire firearms. It has survived one court challenge earlier this spring; it may face others. But the initiative’s opponents now will have to argue against data as well as common sense that says I-594 will save lives, if it hasn’t already.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Opinion

Scott Spahr, Generation Engineering Manager at Snohomish County PUD, points to a dial indicating 4 megawatts of power production from one of two Francis turbine units at the Henry M. Jackson Powerhouse on Friday, Feb. 17, 2023, near Sultan, Washington. Some of the water that passes through units 3 and 4 — the two Francis turbines — is diverted to Lake Chaplain, which supplies water to Everett. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Editorial: Amber King best suited for PUD’s 2nd District seat

Among three solid candidates, King’s knowledge of utilities and contracts will serve ratepayers well.

Editorial cartoons for Monday, July 22

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Brooks: Democrats must provide an answer to MAGA’s promises

For Democrats to succeed, they need to offer people a future of both security and progress.

Krugman: For Trump, once again, it’s carnage in America

Ignoring the clear decline in crime rates for much of the country, Trump basks in thoughts of mayhem.

Krugman: It’s not just Trump that J.D. Vance has flipped on

The GOP’s vice presidential nominee has shifted position on the white working-class folks he came from.

Comment: Blaming media a poor repsonse to political violence

Conspiracy and violent rhetoric holds no specific party identification but seeks only to distract.

Former President Donald Trump, the presumed Republican presidential nominee, speaks during a campaign event in Doral, Fla., July 9, 2024. The Biden campaign has attacked Trump’s ties to the conservative policy plan that would amass power in the executive branch, though it is not his official platform. (Scott McIntyre/The New York York Times)
Comment: Project 2025’s aim is to institutionalize Trumpism

A look at the conservative policy behind Project 2025 and the think tank that thought it up.

Vote 2024. US American presidential election 2024. Vote inscription, badge, sticker. Presidential election banner Vote 2024, poster, sign. Political election campaign symbol. Vector Illustration
Editorial: Return Wagoner and Low to 39th Disrict seats

‘Workhorse’ Republicans, both have sponsored successful solution-oriented legislation in each chamber.

A law enforcement officer surveys the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, the site of the Republican National Convention, on July 14, 2024. (Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times)
Editorial: Weekend’s violence should steel resolve in democracy

Leaders can lower the temperature of their rhetoric. We can choose elections over violence.

Editorial cartoons for Sunday, July 21

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Forum: How much do we really know about ‘bus stop people’?

Our assumptions about people, often fall short of accuracy, yet we justify our divisions based on them.

Voters left with poor options for president

The recent televised debate between former President Trump and President Biden, was… Continue reading

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.