Professor of Public Policy, Economics and Sociology, Duke University
- Empirical research findings since the President’s 1967 crime commission and the Gun Control Act of 1968 have better informed the gun control policy debate.
- Importantly, researchers have concluded that both weapon lethality and availability have an influence on rates of gun violence and homicides.
- Political polarization continues to prevent meaningful gun control regulations outside of narrow areas of bipartisan consensus such as mental health and domestic violence.
In the article, “Challenge of Firearms Control in a Free Society,” Cook traces the evolution of gun-control policy beginning with the anecdotal findings of the 1967 U.S. President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice, and contrasts their recommendations with the current evidence-based policy suggestions of today. Cook outlines two important areas in which empirical findings by researchers since 1967 have better informed the policy debate first considered by the President’s commission. First, the lethality of the type of weapon used in a violent crime matters more than the intent of the perpetrator. Second, the general availability of guns in a geographic region influences the use of guns in violent crime, which also increases the lethality of the violence. Cook closes the article by speculating what gun control policies a new national crime commission might suggest today given the availability of these research findings and the overall political climate. He concludes that broader restrictions on the rights of individuals with mental health issues or domestic violence violations might be the only areas of bipartisan consensus regarding this issue.