What are the Most Effective Policies in Reducing Gun Homocides?

Infographic depicting the number of lives saved when certain policies are enacted.

State policymakers are grappling to identify solutions by considering multiple legislative proposals, from red flag laws to universal background checks to bans on assault weapons to stricter regulation of semiautomatic weapons. With a myriad of often conflicting ideas and proposals, where does a state policymaker begin?

This policy brief will help state policymakers navigate the scientific evidence regarding the impact of state firearm laws on gun-related homicide. Taking advantage of new data resulting from a research project we developed a comprehensive database of state firearm laws spanning the period 1991-2016. The research team then examined the impact of a range of state firearm laws on total, firearm-related, and nonfirearm-related homicide rates at the state level during this time period. The State Firearm Laws Database is publicly available at

The analysis found three priority pieces of legislation that would have the greatest impact in reducing overall firearm homicide rates: universal background checks; prohibition of gun possession by people with a history of any violent misdemeanor, threatened violence, serious alcohol-related crime, or subject to a domestic violence restraining order; and extreme risk protection order laws that allow removal of firearms from an individual who, after due process, is deemed to represent a threat to themselves or others.The purpose of this research was not simply to identify a list of laws that “work” and laws that “do not work.” The advantage of this research is that it allowed for the comparison of the impact of multiple laws at the same time, enabling us to obtain a sense of what laws appear to be most strongly associated with lower rates of firearm homicide. Ultimately, our goal was to identify the types of laws that appear to have the greatest impact and which should therefore be a priority for policymakers.