Laws limiting the availability of firearms for sale to young adults have been shown to be associated with a decrease in youth gun carrying. Minimum age firearm laws can be seen as a potentially effective policy tool to reduce homicide by decreasing young adults’ access to firearms.
Researchers at the Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center (HIPRC), UW Medicine and the Department of Epidemiology of the University of Washington School of Public Health have conducted a new study that found states with stricter minimum age firearm laws, stricter than federal laws, had no effect on firearm homicide rates perpetrated by young adults ages 18 to 20. The study was published August 31, 2020 in JAMA Pediatrics.
In this study, HIPRC found 11% of firearm homicide victims and 10% of known perpetrators were aged 18 to 20 in 2017, even though this age group only makes up 4% of the US population
“We wanted to evaluate whether state laws which raised the minimum age to purchase and/or possess a handgun to 21 were associated with lower rates of firearm homicide among the affected age group,” lead researcher Caitlin Moe, MS says.
During the study period, researchers saw there were 275,171 firearm homicides nationally (67.9% of all homicides), of which 35,960 (13.1%) were perpetrated by young adults aged 18-20. The national rate of firearm homicides perpetrated by young adults declined over our study period from 0.87 per 100,000 in 1995 to 0.44 per 100,000 in 2017.
The study therefore found that there was no significant change in the rates of homicide perpetuated by young adults ages 18 to 20 in states that implemented stricter minimum age laws compared to those that did not.
Future research should try to explore further informal channels in which young adults and youth acquire firearms. “We found that there was no significant change in the rates of homicide, and we believe policy makers should look into more effective strategies to limit youth and young adults’ access to firearms,” Moe says.
Researchers in this study were a part of HIPRC’s Firearm Injury & Policy Research Program. The group’s mission is to reduce the impact of firearm injury and death on people’s lives through interdisciplinary research and collaboration with institutional, community, and governmental partners.
This study was funded by the State of Washington.