Slipping Through the Cracks? The Impact of Reporting Mental Health Records to the National Firearm Background Check System
24 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2018 Last revised: 4 Apr 2018
Date Written: February 21, 2018
Both sides of the contentious debate over firearm regulation agree that some people with mental illness should be prohibited from purchasing firearms. This consensus exists despite limited empirical support. Such support will be essential to courts deciding the prohibition’s constitutionality. We assess the impact on homicide and suicide of states reporting mental health records to the national firearm background check system. Using panel data and a difference-in-differences methodology, we find that upon adding mental health records to the national system, states experienced a 3.3-4.3% decrease in firearm-related suicides with no evidence of substitution to non-firearm suicides. Our findings suggest that mental health restrictions on gun sales do effectively reduce suicide but not homicide.
Keywords: gun control, NICS, firearms, suicide, homicide
JEL Classification: K14, I18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation