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Higher rates of gun crime linked to weaker gun laws, study says

31st October 2016   ·   0 Comments

By Fritz Esker
Contributing Writer

The Center for American Progress (CAP) released a report this month establishing a link between Louisiana’s weak gun laws and its rate of gun violence, which is the worst in the United States.

The report, entitled “America Under Fire: An Analysis of Gun Violence in the United States and the Link to Weak Gun Laws,” said the 10 states with the weakest gun laws have a level of gun violence 3.2 times higher than the 10 states with the strongest gun laws.

From 2005 to 2014, Louisiana had the highest rate of gun-related deaths of any state (18.78 per 100,000 people). In the same time period, 1.6 times more people were killed with guns in Louisiana than the total number of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. Louisiana ranked second for the rate of police officers killed with a firearm.gun-violence-prevention-103

“American lives have been lost because legislators have been unwilling to stand up to the gun lobby and its corporate interests,” said Victoria Coy, executive director of the Louisiana Violence Reduction Coalition.

Gun violence disproportionately affects people of color, according to the report. While African Americans only make up 33 percent of Louisiana’s population, they account for 80 percent of the state’s gun-related homicide victims.

“There is an unquestionable link between the strength of Louisiana’s gun laws and the rates of gun violence in the state,” said Chelsea Parsons, vice president for guns and crime policy at the Center, in a press release. “Lawmakers in Louisiana should strongly consider strengthening gun laws in order to reduce gun deaths and make all of Louisiana’s communities safer.”

The report, authored by Chelsea Parsons and Eugenio Weigend Vargas, acknowledges that many factors contribute to violence in a community, including poverty, unemployment, lack of educational opportunities, and a breakdown in police-community relationships. But the report states, “There is a robust and growing body of research that demonstrates an undeniable correlation between certain strong gun laws and lower rates of gun violence.”

The National Rifle Association disputed the study’s conclusion.

“The most important thing to note in the study is that it says – in its first paragraph – that many factors affect crime…but then the study goes on to take none of those factors into account and instead makes the case that gun control laws alone directly affect crime rates,” said Amy Hunter, a media liaison with the NRA. “These kinds of studies are bad science, and they’re a sham.”

Hunter added that the Federal Bureau of Investigation does not view weaker gun control laws as a cause of crime.

Suggestions for gun control measures offered in the report include closing the private sale loophole, requiring background checks for all gun sales, prohibiting domestic abusers and stalkers from owning guns, and banning or strictly regulating assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Kim Sport, the public policy chairman of the United Way of Southeast Louisiana, said stronger laws can help prevent gun deaths of women at the hands of their intimate partners. From 2005 to 2014, Louisiana ranked second-worst in the nation for gun-related murders of women by their intimate partners (6.93 per one million women).

“If our legislature would listen to law-abiding gun owners, they would find overwhelming support to ensure the safety of its citizens, particularly women, children and police officers in Louisiana,” Sport said in a press release.

The study does not include statistics after Louisiana’s 2014 enactment of a law denying firearms to domestic abusers under a protective order and to those convicted of domestic abuse for 10 years after their conviction.

State Representative Helena Moreno and State Senator J.P. Morrell feel more needs to be done. The 2014 law does nothing to keep guns out of the hands of stalkers. It doesn’t prohibit men who abuse their girlfriends from owning guns, provided they do not live together.

“We really need to do more on the issue to make sure guns don’t fall into the hands of the wrong people, while protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners,” Moreno said.

Morrell said it is difficult to get gun advocates to concede even an inch on increased gun control of any kind. He said other lawmakers have privately admitted that some proposed gun control measures would make sense, but that they’re afraid of the backlash. “It’s impossible to have a logical conversation about gun control in this state,” Morrell said.

Coy, however, continues to advocate for stronger policy around gun ownership including more comprehensive background checks for firearm purchases in Louisiana.

“Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have passed comprehensive background checks and we expect that number to grow soon,” Coy said. “This is no longer the political third rail it once was.”

This article originally published in the October 31, 2016 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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