Gun violence lower in states that require licenses, study finds

A new paper suggests gun licensing laws could be curbing violence in two main ways.


Yegor Aleyev
/ Contributor
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The paper was published by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.
  • It shows how states with gun licensing laws have relatively lower gun violence than states with lax gun laws.
  • Most Americans said they'd support stricter background checks for prospective gun buyers, with about 75 percent saying they'd also support gun licensing laws.

Gun violence is lower in U.S. states where people must get a license before buying a gun, according to a new paper from the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.

Before buying a gun, states require residents to pass a federally mandated background check (if purchasing from a licensed dealer) and, depending on the state, obtain a permit or license. To obtain a gun license, states typically require people to submit fingerprints, apply for a permit, and, in some cases, complete a firearms safety course.

"Licensing differs from a standard background check in important ways," Cassandra Crifasi, deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research and study lead author, said in a news release. "Comprehensive background checks are a necessary component of any system designed to keep guns from prohibited persons, but they are insufficient to reduce firearm-related deaths without a complementary system of purchaser licensing."

In addition to strengthening the screening process, licensing laws could also help to reduce gun homicides and suicides by preventing impulse purchases. After all, obtaining a license typically takes several days, while prospective gun buyers in states like Missouri can obtain a firearm in minutes, assuming they pass the federally mandated background check.

Crifasi et al.

The researchers cited Connecticut as an example of a state with long-held licensing laws. In 1995, the state passed a law requiring prospective gun buyers to "submit an application to local law enforcement, including fingerprints, and complete at least 8 hours of approved handgun safety training," and also increased accountability for gun sellers. Since then, gun homicides have dropped by 40 percent and gun suicides fell by 15 percent, the researchers wrote.

Most Americans seem to support licensing laws: About 75% of adults support laws that require prospective buyers to get a license from law enforcement, with about 60 percent of gun owners supporting such laws, according to a 2017 study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

"Given the body of evidence on the effectiveness of licensing laws and the increasing levels of support among the population, including gun owners, policy makers should consider handgun purchaser licensing as a complement to [comprehensive background check] laws," the researchers of the new study concluded.

2020 Democratic presidential candidates want to end ban on gay blood donors

FDA guidelines say men can't donate blood if they've had sex with another man in the past 12 months.

Participants of WorldPride 2017 strut in costumes on the streets of Madrid. Photo credit: Cristina Arias / Cover / Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • At least seven 2020 Democratic presidential campaigns have called for an end to the FDA's guidelines, as reported by The Independent.
  • It would be the first year that the issue has been a focus of presidential candidates.
  • The American Public Health Association said the FDA's ban isn't based on science.

In 1983, as the HIV and AIDS was ramping up in the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration banned blood donations from men who'd ever had sex with other men. The policy remains active, though in 2015 the FDA narrowed its ban to apply only to men who've had sex with another man in the past year.

Soon, the ban could be lifted altogether.

A growing number of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates are calling to end the long-standing policy, which gay-rights advocacy groups say promotes homophobia and is no longer necessary, thanks to modern disease-screening techniques. Most harmfully, the ban could be preventing healthy blood from reaching patients who need it, when blood shortages are already alarmingly common.

"The one-year deferral period for male blood donors who identify as gay and bisexual has nothing to do with science or medicine and everything to do with outdated stigmas against the LGBTQ community," a spokesperson for Beto O'Rourke's campaign told The Independent, which received similar responses from the campaigns of Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, John Delaney, and Marianne Williamson.

"Our blood screening policies must be based on 21st century medical evidence, not outdated biases about which populations carry more risk of HIV transmission. These policies serve no one and will only limit access to life-saving blood donations."

The ban hasn't been a key issue in past elections, said William McColl, director of health policy with the advocacy group AIDs United.

"I'm pleased to hear that they're talking about it. I think it shows that we've come a really long way in a short period of time," McColl told The Independent. "This discussion wasn't happening even 10 years ago, for sure."

House Democrats tried to lift the FDA's current policy in 2016, but the legislation never passed.

​Is the FDA's current policy based on science?

Not really, according to Georges C. Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association.

"[The FDA's 12-month policy on gay donors] continues to prevent low-risk individuals from contributing to our blood supply and maintains discriminatory practices based on outdated stereotypes," he wrote in comments submitted to the FDA in 2015. "Instead, we strongly urge FDA to issue guidance that is grounded in science to ensure a safe and robust blood supply."

Benjamin noted that current screening technology can identify HIV in blood donations within 11 days, and that the odds of an infected sample making it past screening is about 1 in 3.1 million. The Williams Institute, a think-tank at UCLA School of Law, estimates that eliminating the ban would add 615,300 pints to the national blood supply each year, an increase of about 4 percent.

Listen to (what’s likely) Frida Kahlo’s voice

The iconic 20th-century artist might not sound how you'd expect.

Photo credit: MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP / Getty Images
Culture & Religion
  • Experts at the National Sound Library of Mexico may have discovered the first known voice recording of Frida Kahlo.
  • The tape was found in the archives of a late radio personality.
  • With her unforgettably surreal (and often painful) self-portraits, Kahlo challenged 20th-century notions of sexuality, class, and gender.

The National Sound Library of Mexico has discovered what could be the first known voice recording of the iconic artist Frida Kahlo.

"Frida's voice has always been a great enigma, a never-ending search," Pável Granados, director of the sound library, said at a press conference.

The recording was found in the archives of late radio personality Alvaro "The Bachelor" Galvez y Fuentes. On it, a female voice reads from Kahlo's essay "Portrait of Diego" for a radio program about Mexican artist Diego Rivera, Kahlo's husband.

"He is a gigantic, immense child, with a friendly face and a sad gaze," the voice says. "His high, dark, extremely intelligent and big eyes rarely hold still. They almost come out of their sockets because of their swollen and protuberant eyelids — like a toad's. They allow his gaze to take in a much wider visual field, as if they were built especially for a painter of large spaces and crowds."

The speaker is thought to be Kahlo because she's introduced as the female painter "who no longer exists." (Kahlo died in 1954 at age 47.) Researchers are analyzing the tape to confirm it's Kahlo, and they plan to search the archives in hopes of finding other potential recordings of the artist, whose voice was once described as "melodious and warm" by Gisèle Freund, a French photographer and friend of Kahlo.

"Melodious and warm" — or however you'd describe the voice in the recording — seems at odds with Kahlo's painting style, which is often described as brooding and painful.

"I was expecting something slow and pained, dark and moody," Waldemar Januszczak, a British art critic, told The New York Times. "Instead, she's as chirpy as a schoolgirl reading her mum a poem. . . Where did all the angst go? So much younger and happier than anyone would have thought."

"Girl with Death Mask" [Niña con máscara de calavera] by Frida Kahlo

Kahlo is still celebrated today because her work viscerally challenged 20th-century conventions of gender, class, and sexuality. As Mexico's Culture Minister Alejandra Frausto said, she remains "one of the most iconic cultural personalities there is."

By 2040, 60% of ‘meat’ won’t come from dead animals

Experts say two emerging meat alternatives will challenge the conventional meat industry.


ROBYN BECK/Contributor
Technology & Innovation
  • "Novel vegan meat alternatives" and cultured meat will likely become competitors to traditional meat products, the report says.
  • The report was conducted by the consulting firm A.T. Kearney and was based on expert interviews.
  • Cultured meat isn't yet on the market, but could be by 2021.
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