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Study examines gun laws and crime

By David Williams

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Guns sold in states with laws requiring both the licensing and registration of handguns are less likely to be used in crimes committed in that state, according to a Johns Hopkins University study released Thursday.

The study, conducted by the university's Center for Gun Policy Research, analyzed data collected by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms on guns recovered from crimes committed in 25 U.S. cities over a two-year period. The study was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It divided the cities into three categories: cities in states with both licensing and registration laws, cities with either licensing or registration laws and cities that did not have licensing or registration laws.

The study found that in cities with both laws, 33.7 percent of guns recovered from crimes were originally purchased from in-state dealers, compared to 84.2 percent in cities with neither law.

In cities in states with either licensing or registration laws, 72.7 percent were purchased in-state.

Study co-author Jon Vernick said the study shows the combination of licensing and registration laws make it harder for criminals to get firearms.

"One thing we think is striking about the study is that although there is a big difference between cities that have both licensing and registration and the other two categories, there's a much smaller difference between cities that require either licensing or registration, but not both, and cities that have neither one," Vernick said.

Disagreement over what survey means

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Blaine Rummel, a spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, said the study proves gun laws work. He supports a national licensing and registration law.

"The licensing and registration system in the state is inhibiting the flow of criminals within the state's borders. So what happens is criminals must go out of state to states that don't have licensing and registration," he said. "So you have to go through hurdles, which means that less criminals are getting guns, which means you can infer that there is a drop in crime."

But David Kopel, research director of the Independence Institute and a former assistant attorney general for the state of Colorado, said it may be inaccurate to assume that restricting gun ownership reduces crime.

"Before you take the data from this study and say 'we should leap out to say this proves we should have national licensing and registration' it would be useful to know one of the things they didn't look at, which was. 'Does licensing and registration also depress gun ownership by law abiding people?" Kopel said.

"Are the cities that have these restrictive laws ...also cities where you have fewer people able to protect themselves from crime?"

Vernick said the study only looked at in-state gun sales, not the laws' effects on crime or gun crime.

"It's very, very, hard to figure out the reason crime goes up and down or that crime itself is higher or lower in one place or another," he said. "The reason is that there are so many factors that could effect why crime goes up and down over time or why it goes up and down from place to place."


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