Keeping guns out of the wrong hands

Requiring those seeking gun permits to apply in person to local police departments is likely a more effective way to prevent gun-related violence than requiring a federal background check, according to David Hemenway, professor of health policy at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center.

“Local police chiefs typically know more about the people in their community than does a national computer,” said Hemenway in a July 28, 2015 Washington Post editorial. Recent research from Hemenway and colleagues, which surveyed Massachusetts police chiefs, found applicants who would have passed the federal background check but were denied permits because of previous troubling behavior. Almost all of the Massachusetts police chiefs surveyed favored keeping police discretion for the issuance of permits to carry concealed guns.

The Post editorial suggested that the federal system of instant background checks might not be enough, citing research showing that requiring state permits for gun purchases has reduced gun violence. Currently, ten states and the District of Columbia have such laws; the strongest require the applicant to apply in person to local law enforcement.

Read the Washington Post editorial: A sensible, state-based answer to gun violence

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Poll of Mass. police chiefs finds respondents favor discretion in issuing concealed gun permits (Harvard Chan School release)