Safe Storage Gun Laws: Accidental Deaths, Suicides, and Crime
John R. Lott Jr.
Crime Prevention Research Center
John E Whitley
Crime Prevention Research Center; Institute for Defense Analyses
March 29, 2000
Yale Law School, Law & Economics Working Paper No. 237
It is frequently assumed that safe storage gun laws reduce accidental gun deaths and total suicides, while the possible impact on crime rates are ignored. However, given existing work on the adverse impact of other safety laws, such as safety caps for storing medicine, even the very plausible assumption of reduced accidental gun deaths cannot be taken for granted. Our paper analyzes both state and county data spanning nearly twenty years, and we find no support that safe storage laws reduce either juvenile accidental gun deaths or suicides. Instead, these storage requirements appear to impair people?s ability to use guns defensively. Because accidental shooters also tend to be the ones most likely to violate the new law, safe storage laws increase violent and property crimes against low risk citizens with no observable offsetting benefit in terms of reduced accidents or suicides. During the first five full years after the passage of the safe storage laws, the group of fifteen states that adopted these laws faced an annual average increase of over 300 more murders, 3,860 more rapes, 24,650 more robberies, and over 25,000 more aggravated assaults. On average, the annual costs borne by victims averaged over $2.6 billion as a result of lost productivity, out-of-pocket expenses, medical bills, and property losses.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 72
JEL Classification: K2, K14, K32
Date posted: May 22, 2000