(CN) – Gun-related injuries and deaths in California spike by 70 percent immediately following gun shows in neighboring Nevada, a new study finds.
More than 4,000 gun shows are held in the United States each year, accounting for 4 to 9 percent of all firearm sales. Transactions at these shows are often subject to less oversight, and many states do not require background checks.
The report, published Monday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, suggests that a lack of federal firearm legislation undermines the impact of state gun-control laws. This regulatory disconnect is particularly evident at gun shows, which facilitate the flow of guns from states with less restrictive gun regulations to those with tighter gun control – like Nevada and California, respectively.
“Little is known about how gun shows contribute to firearm injuries in the United States,” the study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, states. “These shows, which can attract thousands of attendees and hundreds of sellers, generate a temporary and diverse source of new and used firearms, ammunition and related equipment.”
To evaluate the connection between gun shows and firearm injuries, scientists analyzed data on 915 gun shows in California and Nevada – mostly in Las Vegas and Reno – from 2005 to 2013, comparing firearm injury rates two weeks before and after the shows occurred.
While firearm injuries were consistent before and after California gun shows, post-show injury rates increased from 0.67 to 1.14 per 100,000 people in areas near Nevada shows, a 70 percent increase. This uptick translates to 30 more firearms-related deaths or injuries in the California border region following 161 Nevada gun shows.
Firearm injuries in Nevada after gun shows in the state were not examined.
In an accompanying editorial, University of Washington researchers Ali Rowhani-Rahbar and Frederick P. Rivara suggest that the study’s findings have many implications for gun policy in the United States.
“The recent mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, was a painful reminder that injuries and deaths resulting from access to guns continue to bedevil many parts of U.S. society, including communities; the health care industry; and the families of those injured, killed, or threatened by firearms,” the editorial says.
“The lack of meaningful action by Congress has left states to chip away in myriad ways at reducing access to guns by those likely to use them for harm against themselves or others.”
Though previous studies have identified an inverse relationship between the rigidity of state gun-control laws and the rate of firearm injuries and deaths, research on the impact of policies regulating gun shows is severely limited, according to the UW team.
“Gun shows allow both licensed dealers and unlicensed persons to sell firearms to attendees,” the UW researchers write. “Whereas purchases from federally licensed dealers require a background check of the potential buyer before a sale is made, several states do not require these checks in private-party sales.
“Gun shows account for only a small proportion of private-party firearm transfers; nevertheless, they can be a source of guns used in crime.”
The UW team adds that while loopholes remain, gun-control regulations do make a difference, particularly collectively.
“The state-by-state nature of these laws, due to the lack of federal legislation, results in barriers to gun access that can be easily breached by a car trip,” they write. “It does not reduce the importance of the laws but does reduce their impact.”