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State and Federal Background Check Laws Used Together Are Most Effective at Reducing Gun-carrying by High School Students: Study


High school students in states that require universal background checks on all prospective gun buyers through a combination of state and federal laws are less likely to carry guns compared to those in states that require background checks only on sales through federally licensed firearms dealers, according to a study published in the January 2020 Pediatrics. The study, "Background Checks and Youth Gun Carrying (published online Dec. 2) analyzed data from the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey for the years 1993-2017. Researchers reviewed responses from 179,857 students in grades 9-12 who were asked, "During the past 30 days, on how many days did you carry a gun?" On average, 5.8% of high school students carried a gun during the study period. Of those who carried guns, approximately 17% were from the states that had universal or background check provision at the point of gun sales, whereas 83% were from states that did not have the universal or background provision. In states that have both the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and state background checks, the likelihood of teens carrying a gun decreased by 25%. The authors found that federal systems for conducting background checks do not independently reduce teen gun carrying on a national level. The state universal background checks had no effect on teen gun-carrying prior to the 1998 implementation of the National Instant Criminal Background Check. The authors conclude that federal and state background check laws work together to significantly reduce gun-carrying by high school students.


The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults.