A law requiring people to apply for a permit before buying a handgun helped Connecticut quietly reduce its firearm-related homicide rate by 40 percent, according to a new study out from Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. And this week, announced in conjunction with the research, lawmakers from Connecticut introduced a measure to encourage other states to adopt their own permit programs.
Connecticut’s “permit to purchase” law, in effect for two decades, requires residents to undergo background checks, complete a safety course and apply in-person for a permit before they can buy a handgun. The law applies to both private sellers and licensed gun dealers.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins reviewed the homicide rate in the 10 years before the law was implemented and compared it to longitudinal estimates of what the rate would have been had the law not be enacted. The study found a 40 percent reduction in gun-related homicides. Bolstering what researchers say is the correlation between the permit law and the drop in gun homicides, there wasn't a similar drop in non-firearm homicides.
The relationship between tighter regulations around handguns and fewer gun-related homicides is in keeping with previous research out of Johns Hopkins on what happened after Missouri repealed its own permit law.
“Our study on the impact of Connecticut’s handgun purchaser licensing law on gun homicides, coupled with our earlier research showing that gun homicides increased when Missouri repealed a similar law, shows that handgun purchaser licensing that supports background checks of all handgun purchasers is one of the most effective policies states can adopt to reduce gun violence,” Dr. Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, said in a statement.
Connecticut lawmakers are hoping similar programs will take off across the country. The bill introduced Thursday would authorize a grant program to help states pay for the creation and implementation of licensing programs similar to what the state has in place.
The "Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act" is the most recent effort from Connecticut’s congressional delegation to push gun safety regulations. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, expressed optimism that the bill could garner bipartisan backing, but several other gun safety efforts have failed in Congress despite popular public support.
Like most of the gun proposals that go to Congress to die, licensing requirements are popular among most Americans -- including the ones who own guns. According to public polling data from Johns Hopkins, 72 percent of Americans and 59 percent of gun owners support laws requiring people to get licenses before they can buy a handgun.
Despite the lack of controversy around licensing laws like what's in place in Connecticut, the NRA seems to think that the state is a very scary place for gun owners. This measure would use Connecticut as a model for federal legislation -- so you can probably expect a fight from the gun lobby on this one, too.