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In an effort to slow the rate of gun deaths many options have been put on the table


In an effort to slow the rate of gun deaths in this country, many laws and proposals have been put on the table. Last week, the Biden administration announced new rules to close the so-called gun show loophole. They would expand the definition of a licensed firearm dealer to ensure any person who legally buys a gun anywhere goes through a background check.


And that's something that the polling indicates the majority of Americans, including gun owners, want.

GAREN WINTEMUTE: Legislators and advocacy groups like the NRA simply are not representing gun owners. If you ask gun owners what do you think we should do, gun owners say we should have background checks for all purchases. The groups and people who claim to represent gun owners are not doing their job.

MARTIN: That's Dr. Garen Wintemute. He is a longtime gun violence researcher at the University of California, Davis. He helped write the state's so-called red flag laws. We started by asking what the data shows about the effectiveness of making gun sellers and buyers follow stricter guidelines.

WINTEMUTE: What we know about closing the gun show loophole is that denying people who are at high risk the purchase of firearms reduces their risk of committing violent crimes. We did a controlled study here in California that showed that. At the policy level, it turns out that the evidence is mixed on background checks themselves. But what makes a very clear difference, and this has been shown over and over again, is if the background check is accompanied by a permit requirement, that works.

MARTIN: You helped craft California's red flag laws. How do they work?

WINTEMUTE: The idea here is this - there's a crisis, and somehow, firearms are part of the crisis. A person might be threatening to kill other people. They might be threatening to kill themselves. The process is that people with that information can go to a judge, make a case - just as we do with domestic violence, on which the red flag law was modeled here in California - that getting the guns out of the situation will help reduce the lethality potential of the crisis. The guns are recovered for safekeeping, or as we've had some times here in California, planned purchases of guns are blocked. And we've seen dozens of instances here in California where these restraining orders were used to block a threatened mass shooting.

MARTIN: Just looking at it from a distance, it just seems discouraging. And is there some reason to not be discouraged, or is there something that's keeping you hopeful?

WINTEMUTE: What brings me hope is most people reject violence. Most people reject the idea that violence is a way to solve problems in the United States. But there is a very distinct difference between states that regulate firearms robustly and states that don't. And the difference is measured in thousands of lives lost per year in that latter group of states that wouldn't have been lost if they had taken the approach that California and other states do.

MARTIN: That's Dr. Garen Wintemute, director of the Violence Prevention Research program at the University of California, Davis. Dr. Wintemute, thank you so much for your time.

WINTEMUTE: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: Tomorrow on MORNING EDITION, we'll hear from two teenagers in Pennsylvania about how they see the threat of gun violence in their very different neighborhoods.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: I'm used to it now. I know that's crazy to say, but I'm - like, I'm used to it, so...

MARTIN: And a look at how people across the state are making it their mission to help teens navigate the threats and keep them out of harm's way.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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