Laws related to the sale, use, and carrying of firearms have been associated with differences in firearm homicide rates at the state level. Right-to-carry (RTC) and stand your ground (SYG) laws are associated with increases in firearm homicide; permit-to-purchase (PTP) laws and those prohibiting individuals convicted of violent misdemeanors (VM) have been associated with decreases in firearm homicide. Evidence for the effect of comprehensive background checks (CBC) not tied to PTP is inconclusive. Because firearm homicide tends to concentrate in urban areas, this study was designed to test the effects of firearm laws on homicide in large, urban U.S. counties. We conducted a longitudinal study using an interrupted time series design to evaluate the effect of firearm laws on homicide in large, urban U.S. counties from 1984 to 2015 (N = 136). We used mixed effects Poisson regression models with random intercepts for counties and year fixed effects to account for national trends. Models also included county and state characteristics associated with violence. Homicide was stratified by firearm versus all other methods to test for specificity of the laws' effects. PTP laws were associated with a 14% reduction in firearm homicide in large, urban counties (IRR = 0.86, 95% CI 0.82-0.90). CBC-only, SYG, RTC, and VM laws were all associated with increases in firearm homicide. None of the laws were associated with differences in non-firearm homicide rates. These findings are consistent with prior research at the state level showing PTP laws are associated with decreased firearm homicide. Testing the effects of PTP laws specifically in large, urban counties strengthens available evidence by isolating the effects in the geographic locations in which firearm homicides concentrate.
Keywords: Firearm; Gun policy; Homicide.