Gun Violence in Black and White: Evidence from Policy Reform in Missouri (Job Market Paper)
Abstract: The role of state-level background check requirements for private firearm sales in reducing gun violence remains controversial in both the empirical literature and gun control policy debate. On August 28, 2007 the Missouri General Assembly repealed an 86 year-old “permit-to-purchase” (PTP) law requiring that handgun purchasers possess a permit, and subsequently undergo a background check, for all sales. The vast racial disparities in firearm homicide within Missouri raises important questions concerning the disproportionate impact of the repeal on Black communities throughout the state. Using generalized synthetic control estimation, this paper finds that the PTP repeal led to a modest increase in county-level gun ownership in addition to substantial evidence of increased firearm homicide in the early years of the 2007-2013 post-repeal period. In particular, state-level effects suggests that overall Black firearm homicide increases on average by an additional five deaths per 100,000 while the same rates for Black victims ages 15-24 rise by 29 deaths per 100,000. County-level estimates also show considerable increases in firearm homicide in Black communities within the more urban regions of the state. Treatment effect estimates for state-level Black firearm homicide translate into approximately an additional 260 deaths attributable to the change in the law over the 2007-2013 period.
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