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State and Local Prevalence of Firearms Ownership: Measurement, Structure, and Trends


  • Deborah Azrael
  • Philip J. Cook
  • Matthew Miller


Of the readily computed proxies for the prevalence of gun ownership, one, the percentage of suicides committed with a gun, performs consistently better than the others in cross-section comparisons. It is readily computed for states and counties and has a high degree of validity when tested against survey-based estimates. It also appears valid as a proxy for changes over time in gun prevalence, at least at the regional level. Our analysis of this proxy measure for the period 1979-1997 demonstrates that the geographic structure of gun ownership has been highly stable. That structure is closely linked to rural tradition. There is, however, some tendency toward homogenization over this period, with high-prevalence states trending down and low-prevalence states trending up.

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  • Deborah Azrael & Philip J. Cook & Matthew Miller, 2001. "State and Local Prevalence of Firearms Ownership: Measurement, Structure, and Trends," NBER Working Papers 8570, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8570
    Note: HC HE

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Azrael, Deborah & Hemenway, David, 2000. "'In the safety of your own home': results from a national survey on gun use at home," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 285-291, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Philip J. Cook & Jens Ludwig & Adam Samaha, 2010. "Gun Control after Heller : Litigating against Regulation," NBER Chapters,in: Regulation vs. Litigation: Perspectives from Economics and Law, pages 103-135 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Kovandzic, Tomislav & Schaffer, Mark E & Kleck, Gary, 2008. "Estimating the Causal Effect of Gun Prevalence on Homicide Rates: A Local Average Treatment Effect Approach," IZA Discussion Papers 3589, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Philip J. Cook & Jens Ludwig, 2002. "The Effects of Gun Prevalence on Burglary: Deterrence vs Inducement," NBER Working Papers 8926, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Katherine Hempstead & Antonio Rodríguez, 2009. "Gun control and suicide: The impact of state firearm regulations, 1995–2004," Development Research Working Paper Series 17/2009, Institute for Advanced Development Studies.
    5. Kleck, Gary & Kovandzic, Tomislav & Schaffer, Mark E, 2005. "Gun Prevalence, Homicide Rates and Causality: A GMM Approach to Endogeneity Bias," CEPR Discussion Papers 5357, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    6. Mark Duggan & Randi Hjalmarsson & Brian A. Jacob, 2008. "The Effect of Gun Shows on Gun-Related Deaths: Evidence from California and Texas," NBER Working Papers 14371, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Phillip J. Cook & Jens Ludwig, 2004. "The Social Costs of Gun Ownership," NBER Working Papers 10736, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Hempstead, Dr. Katherine & Andres, Dr. Antonio Rodriguez, 2009. "Gun control and suicide: The impact of state firearm regulations, 1995-2004," MPRA Paper 20728, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Philip J. Cook & Jens Ludwig, 2006. "Aiming for evidence-based gun policy," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 25(3), pages 691-735.

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    JEL classification:

    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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