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October 11, 2016
One of the key questions in the gun debate is whether strong gun laws—such as requiring background checks for all gun sales; limiting who may carry guns and where they may carry them; and providing increased oversight of the gun industry—are effective at reducing gun violence. This is not an easy question to answer, as there are myriad factors that may contribute to the rate of gun violence in any community. In addition to easy access to guns facilitated and enabled by weak gun laws, there are an interconnected web of social and economic issues that can have an impact on rates of violence in a community, such as persistent poverty, lack of employment and educational opportunities, and a breakdown in the police-community relationship that imperils community safety. Much of the burden of day-to-day gun violence in this country falls disproportionately on communities of color, which are often at the epicenter of these related challenges. Another factor that may affect rates of gun deaths in a state is the level of gun ownership in that state, which is difficult to assess because of the lack of any comprehensive accounting of private gun ownership in this country. And roughly two-thirds of gun deaths in the United States are the result of suicide, which raises another set of questions regarding the role of access to guns in contributing to high rates of suicide.
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