M. Spencer Green/AP/File
Chicago police display some of the thousands of illegal firearms they have confiscated so far this year in their battle against gun violence in Chicago on Jul. 7, 2014.

Report: States with handgun background checks have fewer mass shootings

There were fewer mass shootings in states that require background checks for handgun purchases over the past several years, a report by a national gun-violence-prevention group indicates. 

A new study by gun-control advocacy organization Everytown shows that states that require background checks prior to handgun purchases experience significantly fewer mass shootings than other states.

The group released their new findings Thursday, showing 52 percent fewer mass shootings between January 2009 and July 2015 in states that require background checks on all handgun purchases.

Relying on the FBI’s definition of mass shootings as incidents in which at least four people were murdered with a gun, the group found that there have been 133 mass shootings in the nearly seven-year period. Thirty-seven of the incidences occurred in states that require background checks on all handgun sales. In states where no background checks are required there were 96 similar incidents.

Federal laws require background checks for handgun purchases from federally licensed firearms dealers, but many loopholes remain that allow individuals to buy guns without background checks. Seventeen states and Washington, D.C., require background checks on all handgun sales. Everytown notes that Colorado and Washington State expanded checks during the study period.

According to the group, more than one in three of the gunmen in mass shootings had a prior history of felonies, domestic violence, or mental illness that should have prohibited them from possessing a gun under federal law.

Ted Alcorn, research director at Everytown of Gun Safety, says that closing the loophole that allows guns to be sold without background checks is an essential component to reducing gun violence.

“State laws have been shown to have an influence on rates of gun violence in a pretty voluminous body of research," Mr. Alcorn told The Huffington Post. "When we see a state law that prevents people from buying a handgun without a background check at a gun show or online market, and we see a lower rate of mass shootings as a result, I think it’s fair to draw the conclusion that they may be related."

Specifically, the report notes, “in states with background checks for all handguns, 46 percent fewer women are shot to death by their intimate partners, 48 percent fewer law enforcement officers are killed with handguns.”

The new analysis by Everytown also found that states that checked for a criminal history in buyers had 64 percent fewer domestic violence mass shootings.

An earlier study by Everytown found that in 57 percent of mass shootings, the shooter targeted either a family member or an intimate partner.

While the latest study from Everytown may seem to state a possible solution to a recurring nightmare, the idea of stricter gun control is still a contentious issue in the US and is resonating in the 2016 campaign trail.

Eight in 10 Democrats favor stricter gun laws, while 6 in 10 Republicans want them left as they are or loosened, the Associated Press reports.

Arguments against restrictions on gun ownership hinge on the Second Amendment, which protects the individual right of the people to keep and bear arms.

Last month, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson launched his new book, "A More Perfect Union: What We the People Can Do to Reclaim Our Constitutional Liberties" and he commented that legal guns are one of those liberties. 

The Christian Science Monitor reported, Dr. Carson "suggested that keeping schools from pre-K to college campuses gun-free leads to danger, rather than preventing it. Gunmen 'aren’t likely to go into a place where they are likely to get shot.' "

As the Associated Press reports, support for stricter gun controls often spikes after a publicized incident like a mass shooting, but often fades along with the headlines. 

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