Matthew Lang, 06 October 2017

The majority of recent US bills loosen gun restrictions, thus rekindling the discussion about the relationship between guns and crime. This column presents research that investigates the effect of gun control on suicide. Using background checks as a proxy for gun ownership, the study finds a positive link between the access to guns and firearm suicide rates. This suggests that an increased availability of a particular suicide method can lead to more suicides.

Laurent Bouton, Paola Conconi, Francisco Pino, Maurizio Zanardi, 05 October 2017

Despite support from around 90% of US citizens, expanded background checks for gun purchases failed in the US Senate. This ‘gun-control paradox’ can be explained by the fact that the intensity of voters’ preferences differs across policy issues, and voters only have one vote with which to hold politicians accountable on a bundle of issues. A model incorporating these features predicts Senate voting behaviour very well. Senators closer to re-election are more likely to vote pro-gun, and only Democrats ‘flip-flop’ on guns.