Waiting periods on guns prevent 750 US deaths per year

WASHINGTON: Laws that require waiting periods before the purchase of handguns save hundreds of lives per year and reduce the rate of gun homicides by 17%, US researchers say.

More than 33,000 gun-related deaths occur annually in the United States, said the study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a peer-reviewed journal.

Researchers at Harvard University looked at laws that require would-be gun purchasers to wait before obtaining a firearm, and how the number of firearm-related deaths changed in those states.

They also compared the death rates from guns in states with no such laws to states with the legislation, from 1970 to 2014.

During this period, 44 states had waiting periods of some kind.

"Waiting periods were associated with approximately 36 fewer gun homicides per year in a state with an average number of gun deaths," said the study.

The waiting periods were also "associated with 22-35 fewer gun suicides per year" in a state with an average number of gun deaths, it added.

A second part of the study focused on the period from 1990 to 1998, when a federal law known as the Brady Act required 19 states to adopt new handgun waiting periods.

During that time, waiting periods were "associated with approximately 39 fewer gun homicides and approximately 17 fewer gun suicides per year for a state with an average number of gun deaths."

Just 17 states, including the US capital of Washington, DC, had laws requiring waiting periods on the purchase of guns as of 2014.

These places "likely avoid approximately 750 gun homicides per year with waiting period laws," said the report.

If more states passed waiting period laws, far more lives could be saved.

"Expanding the waiting period policy to all other US states would prevent an additional 910 gun homicides per year without imposing any restrictions on who can own a gun," the study concluded.

In early October a gunman rained gunfire down on country music fans at a concert in Las Vegas, killing 58 and leaving almost 550 injured in the worst US mass shooting in recent history. — AFP