January 14, 2019

States with 40 or more legislative provisions for firearms have about half the rate of incidents of female intimate partner homicide when compared with states having 39 or fewer provisions, according to a new study from researchers at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

Josie Caves

Josie Caves

Josie Caves, MSPH, epidemiology doctoral student at the Gillings School, is lead author of the paper, “Association of State Firearm Legislation with Female Intimate Partner Homicide,”  published online Dec. 17 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Other Gillings School co-authors are Shabbar I. Ranapurwala, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology, Beth Moracco, PhD, associate professor of health behavior, and Steve W. Marshall, PhD, professor of epidemiology, director of the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center and interim director of the Gillings School’s N.C. Institute for Public Health.

The researchers used the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Violent Death Reporting System to collect their data. At the time of the study, only 16 states had reported complete data through 2014 — Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.

In those states, between 2010 and 2014, there were 1,693 female intimate partner homicide deaths, 67 percent of which were homicide-only intimate-partner homicide. The number of state-level legislative provisions related to firearm restrictions ranged from four (Alaska) to 95 (Massachusetts). The researchers found that the incidence of female intimate-partner homicide was 56 percent lower in states with 40 or more legislative provisions in relation to states with zero to 39 provisions.

“A lot of past research has focused upon the ways restrictive firearm laws targeting intimate partner violence perpetrators have had an impact on female homicide rates,” Caves said, “but we were interested in how states’ entire milieu of firearm restrictions might affect this problem. We theorized that in states with more cumulative restrictions overall, firearms would be less readily available to perpetrators of partner violence. This could be useful to legislators and women’s health activists who may be interested in whether to advocate for laws specific to intimate partner homicide prevention, or whether a general strategy of pursuing broad firearm restrictions might have a greater impact.”

Ranapurwala said that more than half of female homicides are perpetrated by the victims’ intimate partners, and though these homicides are preventable, states have not been able to contain the problem.

“Our study shows that many different kinds of violence prevention policies can be effective in reducing intimate partner homicides,” he said. “It is now evident that restrictive firearm policies that keep firearms out of a person’s grasp protect against intimate partner homicide — and against shooters’ suicides, as well.”


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Contact the Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at sphcomm@listserv.unc.edu.

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