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Trends in Firearm Background Check Applications and Denials

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2017
5 pages
This study examined the relationship between application and denial rates for firearm background checks and state characteristics, such as poverty, race, gender, existing firearm ownership, and population density.
There is little previous research on firearm background check applications and denials despite the potential for such research to significantly benefit policy and practice. The U.S. firearm background check system is complex, with federal, state, and local laws creating a patchwork system intended to increase public safety and reduce mortality. State characteristics may play an important role in changes in application and denial rates. Multi‐level longitudinal modeling was used in an ecological study design with the state as the unit of analysis. The study covered the time period between 2005 and 2010, inclusive. Results indicate that application and denial rates significantly increased over time. Population density and poverty level were negatively related to application and denial rates. Firearm ownership, male population size, and percent of residents that were White were positively related to application and denial rates. Percent of African–American residents was negatively related to application rate. The importance of understanding the factors that predict firearm prevalence and the need for additional research on the denial of firearms are discussed. (Publisher abstract modified)
Date Published: January 1, 2017