Gun Policy Researcher, Impact of Congressional and Supreme Court Gun Law Amendments: NPR

NPR’s Ari Shapiro speaks with Daniel Webster of Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Gun Violence Solutions about the likely effect of gun law changes coming from Congress and the Supreme Court.



ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

In the space of just a few hours, the country took two big steps in different directions on firearms last week. On Thursday morning, the Supreme Court struck down a century-old law limiting concealed carry permits in New York. The decision signaled that state and local restrictions across the country could be next. Later that day, the Senate passed the first major federal gun legislation in three decades. The bill would strengthen background checks on gun buyers between the ages of 18 and 21, expand the ban on gun purchases for those convicted of domestic violence, and send hundreds of millions of dollars to mental health and school safety resources. To understand the real impact of these changes, we are now joined by Daniel Webster of Johns Hopkins University. His research focuses on policies to reduce gun violence. Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

DANIEL WEBSTER: Thank you for inviting me.

SHAPIRO: To start with the action in Congress, Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, is one of the sponsors of the Senate legislation, and he says this bill will save thousands of lives. Is he right ?

WEBSTER: Well, I certainly hope so. I really think the overall package will lead to less gun violence and therefore result in lives being saved. How much will really be determined based on how these policies are implemented. This is largely a spending bill aimed at pumping dollars into communities to address gun violence, and how they actually use these resources will determine their ultimate impact.

SHAPIRO: Which provision do you think is likely to have the greatest impact?

WEBSTER: The things I’m focusing on right now are closing the so-called gap between dating partners in domestic violence offense prohibitions. We know that today’s domestic violence or intimate partner violence is much more likely to involve romantic partners than spouses.

SHAPIRO: Yes.

WEBSTER: And if you look at the data, that’s really where we should be focusing, so I’m very happy to see that gap filled.

SHAPIRO: Many provisions of the legislation seem designed to address mass shootings like the one in Uvalde, Texas. As horrific as these shootings are, they actually represent only a small percentage of the total number of gun deaths. Do you think this focus makes sense if we’re trying to reduce gun violence across the country?

WEBSTER: Well, mass shootings are certainly important, even if they’re small in proportion to the larger issue of gun violence. But I think you’re absolutely right that what our country desperately needs is legislation and policymaking that truly takes into account the totality of gun violence that affects our communities. . One thing we haven’t talked about is that $250 million is allocated to community violence response programs. I think that will definitely mean less gun violence in the most affected communities.

SHAPIRO: I think $250 million isn’t a lot per major city. I don’t know how far that goes in a country as big as the United States.

WEBSTER: Absolutely. That’s – you’re absolutely right. And I think it’s also important to keep that in contrast to the $750 million that’s more for the mass shooting issue. So you can look at these two-dollar allowances to see the disconnect between what gun violence looks like in America and what our policymakers are reacting to.

SHAPIRO: Even as the Senate took this step to limit gun violence, the Supreme Court expanded access to firearms. How effective were concealed carry laws like the one in New York that the judges struck down?

WEBSTER: Well, they were effective. It is one of the most studied forms of gun politics. What this research shows is that when states do what the Supreme Court now says they must do, it results in more gun violence.

SHAPIRO: Is there a way to look at all of these actions by Congress and the Supreme Court and judge what the outcome is, whether it will ultimately lead to more or less gun violence in the United States?

WEBSTER: Well, I wish I had a crystal ball. I do not know. But, you know, my gut tells me that in the long run, we might see more harm than good based on what’s been going on for the past few days.

SHAPIRO: This is Daniel Webster, co-director of the Center for Gun Violence Solutions at Johns Hopkins University. Thanks.

WEBSTER: Thank you.

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