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

See all articles by Fredrick E. Vars

Fredrick E. Vars

University of Alabama - School of Law

Griffin Sims Edwards

University of Alabama at Birmingham - Department of Marketing, Industrial Distribution & Economics

Date Written: February 21, 2018

Abstract

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

Vars, Fredrick E. and Edwards, Griffin Sims, Slipping Through the Cracks? The Impact of Reporting Mental Health Records to the National Firearm Background Check System (February 21, 2018). U of Alabama Legal Studies Research Paper No. 3127786. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3127786 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3127786

Fredrick E. Vars

University of Alabama - School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 870382
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487
United States

Griffin Sims Edwards (Contact Author)

University of Alabama at Birmingham - Department of Marketing, Industrial Distribution & Economics ( email )

The University of Alabama at Birmingham
1720 2nd Ave South
Birmingham, AL 35294
United States

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