ing for use of firearms were in place at the same time, it was difficult to attribute impact to any particular policy (NRC, 2005).

Research results on the impact of right-to-carry laws on firearm violence are also inconsistent and have been debated for a decade. The 2005 NRC study found no persuasive evidence from available studies that right-to-carry laws decreases or increases violent crime.

“Gun courts,” which are set up specifically to try firearm-related crimes, have not been studied adequately (NRC, 2005). In Birmingham, Alabama, gun courts have sped up the trial process, involved parental education, provided boot camp for youth, and given judges authority to impose consequences. Gun courts have been established in Brooklyn and Queens, New York; Cambridge, Massachusetts; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Providence, Rhode Island.

Individual Risk and Protective Factors

Protective Effects of Gun Ownership

Estimates of gun use for self-defense vary widely, in part due to definitional differences for self-defensive gun use; different data sources; and questions about accuracy of data, particularly when self-reported. The NCVS has estimated 60,000 to 120,000 defensive uses of guns per year. On the basis of data from 1992 and 1994, the NCVS found 116,000 incidents (McDowall et al., 1998). Another body of research estimated annual gun use for self-defense to be much higher, up to 2.5 million incidents, suggesting that self-defense can be an important crime deterrent (Kleck and Gertz, 1995). Some studies on the association between self-defensive gun use and injury or loss to the victim have found less loss and injury when a firearm is used (Kleck, 2001b).

Risk Factors Associated with Gun Possession

Certain aspects of suicide, homicide, and unintentional injury may be amenable to public health research. Some studies have concluded that persons who keep a firearm in the home may have a greater risk of suicide and homicide (Kellermann et al., 1993). Homicide by individuals possessing guns illegally is of special interest. The public health burden of interpersonal firearm violence and the interactions of substance use, abuse, and trafficking deserve specific attention.

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