Head west to Missouri, though, and buying a handgun is practically a cakewalk. Customers at Osage County Guns in Belle, Mo., for example, can walk into the store and walk out with a gun if they pass the FBI’s instant background check, says John Dawson, the store’s chief technical officer.
“If a person knew exactly what they wanted,” he says, the store could, “in theory, complete the transaction in about 15 minutes.”
Missouri and Connecticut have staked out opposite ends of the gun law spectrum. Connecticut didn’t require handgun buyers to get a permit until 1995. Missouri had a tough law on the books, but repealed it in 2007. The states’ laws have flip-flopped, making for a fascinating natural experiment on gun laws’ effects on gun violence.
The states “had mirror image policy changes, and mirror image results,” says Daniel Webster, a health policy researcher at Johns Hopkins University.
Flipping the laws was associated with 15 percent fewer gun suicides in Connecticut and 16 percent more in Missouri, a statistical analysis by Webster and colleagues, published last year in Preventive Medicine, estimated. Similar analyses by Webster in 2014 and 2015 indicated a 40 percent reduction in Connecticut gun homicide numbers, and an 18 percent rise in Missouri.
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