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Handgun waiting periods reduce gun deaths

  1. Christopher Poliquina
  1. aHarvard Business School, Boston, MA 02163
  1. Edited by Philip J. Cook, Duke University, Durham, NC, and accepted by Editorial Board Member Kenneth W. Wachter September 21, 2017 (received for review December 3, 2016)

Significance

Waiting period laws that delay the purchase of firearms by a few days reduce gun homicides by roughly 17%. Our results imply that the 17 states (including the District of Columbia) with waiting periods avoid roughly 750 gun homicides per year as a result of this policy. Expanding the waiting period policy to all other US states would prevent an additional 910 gun homicides per year without imposing any restrictions on who can own a gun.

Abstract

Handgun waiting periods are laws that impose a delay between the initiation of a purchase and final acquisition of a firearm. We show that waiting periods, which create a “cooling off” period among buyers, significantly reduce the incidence of gun violence. We estimate the impact of waiting periods on gun deaths, exploiting all changes to state-level policies in the Unites States since 1970. We find that waiting periods reduce gun homicides by roughly 17%. We provide further support for the causal impact of waiting periods on homicides by exploiting a natural experiment resulting from a federal law in 1994 that imposed a temporary waiting period on a subset of states.

Footnotes

  • ?1To whom correspondence should be addressed. Email: mluca{at}hbs.edu.
  • Author contributions: M.L., D.M., and C.P. designed research, performed research, analyzed data, and wrote the paper.

  • The authors declare no conflict of interest.

  • This article is a PNAS Direct Submission. P.J.C. is a guest editor invited by the Editorial Board.

  • See Commentary on page 12097.

  • This article contains supporting information online at www.danielhellerman.com/lookup/suppl/doi:10.1073/pnas.1619896114/-/DCSupplemental.

This is an open access article distributed under the PNAS license.

Online Impact

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