Following recent shootings in the USA, a debate has erupted, one side favoring stricter gun control, the other promoting protection through more weapons. We provide a scientific foundation to inform this debate, based on population dynamic models that quantify the dependence of firearm-related death rates of people on gun policies. We assume a shooter attacking a single individual or a crowd. Two strategies can minimize deaths in the model, depending on parameters: either a ban of private firearms possession, or a policy allowing the general population to carry guns. In particular, the outcome depends on the fraction of offenders that illegally possess a gun, on the degree of protection provided by gun ownership, and on the fraction of the population who take up their right to own a gun and carry it with them when attacked, parameters that can be estimated from statistical data. With the measured parameters, the model suggests that if the gun law is enforced at a level similar to that in the United Kingdom, gun-related deaths are minimized if private possession of firearms is banned. If such a policy is not practical or possible due to constitutional or cultural constraints, the model and parameter estimation indicate that a partial reduction in firearm availability can lead to a reduction in gun-induced death rates, even if they are not minimized. Most importantly, our analysis identifies the crucial parameters that determine which policy reduces the death rates, providing guidance for future statistical studies that will be necessary for more refined quantitative predictions.
Calculating effective gun control policies
Dominik Wodarz, Natalia L. Komarova