Public Release: 

Do gun restrictions help reduce gun deaths?

Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

A study by researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health looked at the associations between firearm-related laws and firearm homicides, suicides, and unintentional injuries and deaths. The paper is the first to explore the evidence from around the world on gun laws and gun violence to determine whether gun restrictions help reduce gun deaths. While the research did not conclusively prove that restrictions, or relaxation of laws, reduce gun deaths, the results indicate that gun violence tended to decline after countries passed new restrictions on gun purchasing and ownership. Findings are published online in the February issue of Epidemiologic Reviews.

The researchers reviewed the findings from 130 studies conducted from 1950 to 2014 in 10 countries that had overhauled their gun law, mostly in the developed world, including the U.S., Australia, and Austria. A few studies looked at gun laws in middle-income countries, including Brazil, Colombia and South Africa.

"In most countries, we saw evidence of reduction in the firearm death rates after the enactment of firearm legislation" said Julian Santaella-Tenorio, a doctoral student in Epidemiology at Columbia University's Mailman School and the study's lead author.

Santaella-Tenorio and his Columbia co-authors, Professors Magdalena Cerdá and Sandro Galea, also found evidence that specific laws, such as background checks and rules on storage, reduced specific kinds of gun deaths including intimate partner homicides and firearm unintentional deaths in children, respectively.

By comparison, laws in place about carrying concealed weapons or standing your ground either had no effect on gun deaths or increased gun violence. "While our review is not proof that gun laws reduce violence, and also taking into account that for some countries there are very few papers examining firearm laws effects, we did see evidence showing an association between firearm laws and a decline in firearm homicide and suicide rates," noted Santaella-Tenorio.

"Since we limited our review to changes in firearm policy and not ownership in general or other types of policy, the debate should not end here."


Santaella-Tenorio's doctoral studies were previously supported by the J. William Fulbright Scholar Program and now by the Colciencias scholarships. Andrés Villaveces in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina was also a co-author. The authors report no conflicts of interest.

About Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

Founded in 1922, Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting New Yorkers, the nation and the world. The Mailman School is the third largest recipient of NIH grants among schools of public health. Its over 450 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as preventing infectious and chronic diseases, environmental health, maternal and child health, health policy, climate change & health, and public health preparedness. It is a leader in public health education with over 1,300 graduate students from more than 40 nations pursuing a variety of master's and doctoral degree programs. The Mailman School is also home to numerous world-renowned research centers including ICAP (formerly the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs) and the Center for Infection and Immunity. For more information, please visit

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