Date of Degree

5-2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Economics

Advisor(s)

Michael Grossman

Committee Members

Theodore Joyce

David Jaeger

Glenn Loury

Rajiv Sethi

Subject Categories

Econometrics | Health Economics | Other Economics

Keywords

Gun Control Policy, Race, Economics of Crime, Homicide, Law, Generalized Synthetic Control

Abstract

Gun violence remains an important contributor to racial differences in mortality within the United States. Despite the existence of these significant racial disparities in firearm homicide victimization, the relationship between gun control policy and racial disparities in homicide remains largely unexplored within the empirical crime literature. Previous research suggests that access to secondary firearm markets serves as a salient contributor to local gun violence with the regulation of private firearm sales falling exclusively within state-level jurisdiction. The role of state-level background check requirements for private firearm sales in reducing gun violence remains controversial in both the empirical literature and gun control policy debate.

On August 28, 2007 the Missouri General Assembly repealed an 86 year-old "permit-to-purchase" (PTP) law requiring that handgun purchasers possess a permit, and subsequently undergo a background check, for all sales. The vast racial disparities in firearm homicide within Missouri raises important questions concerning the disproportionate impact of the repeal on Black communities throughout the state. The crime literature offers several theoretical explanations accounting for the racial differences in gun violence with certain theories offering a valuable framework to interpret the importance of gun control policy liberalization to these disparities. This dissertation uses the Missouri permit-to-purchase law repeal as a case study in examining the differential response to gun control policy liberalization across racial groups.

Using generalized synthetic control estimation, this study finds that the PTP repeal led to an increase in county-level gun ownership in addition to substantial evidence of increased firearm homicide in the early years of the 2007-2013 post-repeal period. Missouri experienced an additional 1,234 handgun background checks by federally licensed dealers and an average seven percentage point county-level (i.e., Jackson County and the Greater St. Louis area) increase in the fraction of suicides committed with a firearm associated with repeal. State-level effects suggest that overall Black firearm homicide increases on average by an additional five deaths per 100,000 (17 percent increase) while the same rates for Black victims ages 15-24 rise by 29 deaths per 100,000 (33 percent increase). County-level estimates also show considerable increases in firearm homicide in Black communities within the more urban regions of the state. However, this study finds no evidence of an increase in firearm homicide among White Missourians. Treatment effect estimates for state-level Black firearm homicide translate into approximately an additional 260 deaths attributable to the change in the law over the 2007-2013 period.

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