Do gun laws save lives? The chart above shows homicide rates for U.S. states (data from here) together with an A to F ranking of state gun laws from the Giffords organisation. As with my post from 2017, there is actually no statistically significant correlation (this is particular noticeable among the F’s, which include both the seven states with the highest murder rate and the two states with the lowest). In other words, the answer seems to be no.
Rather, it seems that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. The murder rate in the U.S. is driven by social factors which differ from state to state – factors which make New Hampshire and Maine pretty safe, but which produce a murder rate ranging from 14 per 100,000 to 20.5 per 100,000 in Missouri, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. For comparison, New Hampshire has a murder rate similar to that of Australia, but Louisiana and Mississippi, if they were countries, would rank among the most murderous 20 countries in the world.
There is some evidence that keeping guns out of the hands of criminals would reduce the murder rate in the U.S., but this is extremely difficult to do. The U.S. has a lengthy, porous southern border, across which there is a free flow of people, guns, and illegal drugs.
In addition, a concept from catastrophe theory is useful here. In the cusp pictured below, it is possible to “drop” from the top of the fold to the bottom, but a long roundabout journey would be required to get back up. Similarly, it is very easy to introduce guns into a society, but very difficult to remove them. Although such removal has been done elsewhere, laws forbidding gun ownership are likely to be ignored by precisely those violent criminals that one would not wish to carry them. And, of course, there is the 2nd Amendment.