THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN UNIVERSAL BACKGROUND CHECK LAWS FOR FIREARM SALES AND RATES OF VIOLENT CRIME AT THE STATE LEVEL
The high rate of gun violence in the United States compared to other industrialized nations has spurred policymakers to evaluate the efficacy of various gun violence reduction policies. One major policy that has gained traction, but on which there is limited research, is the expansion of background check requirements for firearm sales beyond those conducted by federally licensed dealers to cover all private sales between individuals. This paper examines the extent to which the adoption of universal background check requirements is related to the rate of violent crime at the state level and incorporates data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, and the FBI uniform Crime Reporting database. In my overall sample, I find no relationship between background check laws and the rate of violent crime. However, I do find that, in high poverty states, the presence of a universal background check law is negatively associated with the rate of violent crime. There is no such relationship in low poverty states. The latter two findings in particular introduce new evidence into the debate over gun violence prevention policies.
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