Citation(s) from the GunPolicy.org literature library

Cook, Philip J and Jens Ludwig. 2013 ‘The Limited Impact of the Brady Act - No Evidence of Reduction in Deaths.’ Reducing Gun Violence in America: Informing Policy with Evidence and Analysis; Part I, Chapter 2, pp. 22-23. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. 25 January

Relevant contents

No Evidence of Homicide Reduction

The same year that President Clinton claimed success we published an evaluation of the Brady Act in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Ludwig and Cook 2000). Our conclusion was less positive - we found no evidence of a reduction in the homicide rate that could be attributed to Brady. We also considered the possibility that Brady reduced the overall suicide rate, but found no discernible impact on that outcome either.

In presenting these findings, we cautioned that our statistical method rested on certain untested (though in our judgment, reasonable) assumptions, and that our null results still left some room for the possibility that Brady had an effect, albeit small, and either positive or negative. Further, even if our null results are correct for the early years of Brady, they do not preclude the possibility that a different regulatory scheme might be more effective in achieving the purpose. Indeed, the Brady Act itself incorporated potentially important changes that were implemented in December 1998.

While the initial "interim" phase, from 1994 to 1998, was limited to handgun purchases, the second "permanent" phase expanded the background check requirement to include purchasers of rifles and shotguns. Perhaps more importantly, the interim phase required a five-day waiting period from application to delivery of the handgun, while the permanent phase replaced the waiting period with a new system, known as the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Our evaluation focused entirely on the interim phase.

In this essay we provide a summary of our evaluation, discussing its strengths and limitations, and then go on to consider two questions that are vital to the current debate: (1) What are the most important limitations of the current selective prohibition system?; and (2) How could this general approach be strengthened?

Source cited:

Ludwig, Jens and Philip J. Cook. 2000. "Homicide and suicide rates associated with the implementation of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act." Journal of the American Medical Association 284(5): 585–591.

ID: Q6717

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