Year of Publication

2015

College

Public Health

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (M.P.H.)

Committee Chair

Julia Costich, PhD

Committee Member

Sabrina Brown, PhD

Committee Member

Glen Mays, PhD

Abstract

Objectives: The objective of our research was to look broadly at firearms and health in the state of Kentucky, where annual gun purchases are rising and laws eliminating restrictions on concealed carry have empowered more than 300,000 citizens to carry firearms in virtually any public setting. As guns become more prevalent, and more readily accessible, will violent crime decrease as some have predicted, or will the potential for conflict escalation cause the opposite effect?

Methods: Utilizing death records for firearm-related homicides and hospitalization and emergency department visit data for injuries occurring due to firearm-related assault, we correlated the rate of concealed carry permit holding in Kentucky with the rate of incident of firearm-related injuries and deaths between 2005 & 2013. We also examined trends for firearm-related homicides and assaults between the years 2000-2013 to see if firearm-related violent crimes have increased as a proportion of the total incidents and if violent crime in Kentucky has moved in accordance with the national downward trend.

Results: No significant association was found between CCDW rates and firearm-related homicide rate, firearm-related hospitalization due to assault rates or firearm-related ED Visit rates in Kentucky between 2005 & 2013 when controlling for population growth, although the low power of the study virtually precludes significant outcomes. Upward trends were observed for all variables. Firearm-related hospitalizations due to assault were found to be increasing significantly as a proportion of the total number of hospitalizations due to assault between 2000-2013.

Conclusions: Contrary to the "More Guns, Less Crime" argument of the late 90s that spurred a nationwide movement towards right to carry legislation, our findings support the conclusion that concealed carry permission does not reduce violent crime. A significant upward trend was discovered for hospitalizations due to firearm-related assault as a proportion of the total number of such hospitalizations. This might suggest that firearm injuries are more often serious enough to require inpatient treatment. It might also suggest that firearms are displacing other mechanisms of assault (e.g. striking, cutting, etc.) among those admitted to the hospital. While no statistically meaningful association was found between CCDW and hospitalizations due to assault, the p-value was sufficiently “marginal” that a more refined analysis could alter the result.

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