Visualizing the State of US Gun Law
A stacked bar chart showing just how wretched blue state gun policy is
In the wake of the shooting in Sacramento California last Sunday, Dianne Feinstein called for federal adoption of California state gun law. Her callout is thoroughly illogical because those laws she already has didn’t prevent that shooting, but since Stephen Gutowski details this quite well at The Reload, there’s no need for HWFO to dive any deeper into that argument.
Instead I would like to visualize exactly how awful California’s gun laws are, as well as the rest of the country, with a stacked bar chart. It’s hard to understand how different state gun laws are in the USA without proper data visualization. This will tie in not only with mass shootings in California, but the current trend of Shall Issue concealed carry states converting over to Constitutional Carry.
First, let us presume that some gun laws work, and some do not. The best, most comprehensive, and only truly mathematically honest attempt to determine which laws work and which do not was performed in 2019 by Michael Siegel at Boston University. I did an exhaustive analysis of this study for Open Source Defense in February of 2020, but the original study is available from the Journal of Internal Medicine, here. The gist of that study is the following:
Some flavor of Universal Background Check works some,
Prohibiting those convicted of a violent misdemeanor from buying a handgun works some,
Both “May Issue” laws, where the police get to discriminate about who gets a permit, and “Constitutional Carry” laws, where there are literally no permits at all, work some when compared to “Shall Issue” laws which require a permit but do not discriminate,
Every single other law doesn’t work.
Assault weapon bans don’t work, mag size bans don’t work, 21 to buy doesn’t work, trafficking prohibitions don’t work, feature prohibitions don’t work, junk gun laws don’t work, and which version of stand-your-ground a state goes by doesn’t matter. Nothing else matters.
I sourced the total number of gun laws by state from another Michael Siegel study in 2016, published in the American Journal of Public Health, here, so it’s a little old but should be good enough for our visualization purposes. I identified the current state of carry permit law from Wikipedia here, although that page has not yet been updated for Georgia’s pending law. I sourced the state of universal background check law from the first Siegel study.
When you add up all the laws that work, and compare them visually to all the laws that don’t, you get this:
If we were a smart people, who sought a national gun policy compromise that makes any sort of sense, all those states on the left of the graph would trade all that orange back for a little more blue.
That they are immensely unwilling to do so is a tell. Either they don’t understand the science, or they aren’t actually interested in promoting policy that works in the first place.