Gun curb linked to fewer deaths

December 05, 1991|By Boston Globe

A tough handgun control law passed in Washington, D.C., in 1976 "substantially and abruptly" reduced both homicides and suicides, a new University of Maryland study shows, providing further compelling evidence that gun control saves lives.

After Washington adopted the law -- which banned the purchase, sale, transfer or possession of handguns by civilians -- the homicide-by-firearm rate fell 25 percent and the suicide-by-firearm rate by 23 percent. The study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine compared homicides and suicides committed from 1968 to 1976 with those from 1976 through 1987, the last year for which statistics were available.

Although the district's homicide rate remains high, the gun control law probably prevented 47 deaths per year, the study said.

This decline is all the more significant, said the UM researchers, because homicide and suicide rates in adjacent counties, which PTC do not have handgun control laws, did not decline.

While the researchers cautioned that the results in the District of Columbia could not necessarily be expected elsewhere, they said the study provides strong evidence that strict handgun laws reduce gun-related homicides and suicides.

In a strongly worded editorial, Dr. Jerome P. Kassirer, the Journal editor, urged doctors to "speak out and be counted. . . . The death rate from guns has long been a national disgrace."

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