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BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -
Research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham says that states with tighter background checks on gun buyers have fewer homicide and suicide deaths by firearms.
UAB associate professor Bisakha Sen, Ph.D. analyzed state-level data for homicides and suicides in the U.S. from 1996 to 2005 plus data on the background info required for gun purchases. Sen and her co-author found that states which checked for restraining orders, fugitive status, mental illness and misdemeanors were associated with a 7% reduction in homicides and a 2% reduction in suicide deaths. Firearm deaths were 13% lower for states that checked for restraining orders and 21% lower for states that checked for fugitive status.
Sen says it is impossible to control everything that could affect the results.
"We think our findings indicate comprehensive background checks may help, but it would be a mistake to think of them as a panacea," Sen explains.
Mississippi and New Mexico had the fewest background checks in '05 and also had the highest firearm homicide rates that year.
These results come after Alabama suffered a shooting in Tuscaloosa where 18 people were injured and a shooting in Aurora, Colorado at a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" where 12 people were killed and 58 wounded.
"After the theater shooting, emotions are running high, but it's important to take a step back and focus on the science and the objective data," says Sen.
Sen says she thinks the new gun control focus will be on buying guns over the internet.
"There is nothing in our set of gun control laws that would have flagged the suspect in the Colorado massacre because he had no kind of criminal record or history of mental illness," Sen says. "But because he stockpiled his weapons with the help of the Internet, I think there will be a newfound focus on the implications of being able to purchase unlimited amounts of ammunition online."