Firearms account for a substantial proportion of external causes of death, injury, and disability across the world. Legislation to regulate firearms has often been passed with the intent of reducing problems related to their use. However, lack of clarity around which interventions are effective remains a major challenge for policy development. Aiming to meet this challenge, we systematically reviewed studies exploring the associations between firearm-related laws and firearm homicides, suicides, and unintentional injuries/deaths. We restricted our search to studies published from 1950 to 2014. Evidence from 130 studies in 10 countries suggests that in certain nations the simultaneous implementation of laws targeting multiple firearms restrictions is associated with reductions in firearm deaths. Laws restricting the purchase of (e.g., background checks) and access to (e.g., safer storage) firearms are also associated with lower rates of intimate partner homicides and firearm unintentional deaths in children, respectively. Limitations of studies include challenges inherent to their ecological design, their execution, and the lack of robustness of findings to model specifications. High quality research on the association between the implementation or repeal of firearm legislation (rather than the evaluation of existing laws) and firearm injuries would lead to a better understanding of what interventions are likely to work given local contexts. This information is key to move this field forward and for the development of effective policies that may counteract the burden that firearm injuries pose on populations.
Keywords: death; firearms; homicide; legislation; suicide; weapons; wounds and injuries.
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