November 2019

IZA DP No. 12784: Greater US Gun Ownership, Lethality and Murder Rates: Analysis and Policy Proposals

This paper examines the US gun-related murder (GM) rate and places it in an international context. The US GM rate is 27 times the average rate for 22 other developed countries (ODC). Its gun ownership rate is 5.4 times that of ODC and the murder rate per gun is 5 times that of ODC. Thus, as is done in the paper, an effective reduction of the US GM rate requires an analysis of both the high gun ownership rate and the high murder rate per gun. The paper examines about fifteen gun-related policy reforms – their impact, cost and structure for maximum benefit – and other policies affecting the GM rate. Among the latter is immigration policy and its impact on violent crime where the claims of the pro- and anti-immigration groups are examined. The paper also looks at the GM impact of programs that provide alternative life pursuits for young men at risk. It further presents a number of policy implications and some new proposals designed to reduce the GM rate. Four appendices provide i) results from two recent opinion polls on gun-policy reforms, ii) a detailed analysis of the relationship between gun ownership and the GM rate, iii) calculations of gun buyback costs, and iv) a correction of results in the literature on the Brady Bill's impact on gun ownership.