This paper is a critical analysis of the case study conducted by Jens Ludwig and Philip Cook titled, “Homicide and Suicide Rates Associated with the Implementation of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.” The thesis of this paper was to determine whether the enactment of the Brady Act has a significant effect on the rates of homicide and suicide in the USA.
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After a brief introduction to the topic, this paper summarizes the case study of the authors by highlighting the background of their study, the methods used, their findings, discussions and conclusions. This paper also focuses on the methods that were used by the authors to collect, analyze, and present data for their study. Moreover it focuses on the strengths and weaknesses of the study and concludes by giving the recommendations that can be used to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of future studies on the same topic.
The United States of America has one of the leading rates of homicide and suicide in the world as a result of gun related activities. According to Goss (2006), most of these cases occur due to the possession and usage of firearms by individuals who have criminal records. In response to the, the nation passed the Brady bill into law as a means of minimizing the related acts of gun violence and suicide in the United States.
Referred to as the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, this bill was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on the 30th of November 1993 and put into effect on the 28th of February 1994 (Goss, 2006).
The main aim of this law is to minimize the purchase and possession of firearms by individuals who have a criminal background. To achieve this, the law introduced a 5-day waiting windowbefore an individual can buy a firearm from federally licensed firearms dealers (FFLs). The 5-day period is used by the FFLs to determine whether or not an individual can own a firearm.
This law was named after James Brady who was the Whitehouse press secretary during the reign to Ronald Reagan. Brady was fatally injured during the attempted assassination of President Reagan in 1981 (Goss, 2006). After surviving the incident, Brady has been actively involved in campaigns that aim at bringing gun violenceto an end in the United States.
As such, he played a critical role in the developed and enactment of the Brady bill into law. In the campaign to pass the Brady bill into law, Brady experienced a lot of opposition especially from organizations such as the National Rifle Association (NRF). At the same time, the people who were supporting this bill were uncertain whether it will actually reduce the level of gun violence in the United States. However, they supported the bill since it would actually reduce the ease at which individuals can have access to firearms within the nation.
On this regards, this paper will critically analyze the case study presented by Jens Ludwig and Philip Cook titled, “Homicide and Suicide Rates Associated with the Implementation of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.” The thesis of this paper is to determine whether the enactment of this act has had a significant effect in reducing the rates of homicide and suicide within the United States of America.
To realize this, the authors have conducted a series of statistical analyses from data that has originated from the National Centre for Health Statistics (NCHS) from 1985 to 1997. Thus, to realize its objectives, this paper will utilize the 7 stage checklist for program and policy planning.
Therefore, this paper will summarize the case study of the authors, critically analyze the methods that the authors have used to collect relevant data for the study and critique the evidence that the authors have presented to support their thesis statements by determining their strengths and weaknesses.
The final segment of this paper will comprise of my view on the arguments that has been presented by the authors as well as the current trends regarding the Brady Act. The paper will then close by expounding on the individuals who might benefit from the information presented by this paper.
The implementation of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act in 1994 was received with mixed reactions. According to the authors, there is one group of individuals who viewed this law as a means of curbing gun violence in the USA while another group was skeptical whether the law will significantly reduce gun related violence. In this regard, the authors conducted a study that was aimed at determining whether the implementation of this law actually had a significant impact in the reduction of homicide and suicide rates within the USA.
This is because this law made it mandatory for FFLs to initiate a 5-day waiting period and also to conduct a background check in order to determine whether the individuals who were purchasing firearms are not legally prohibited. In most cases, the perpetrators of gun violent acts usually have a criminal background (Cook, Lawrence, Ludwig and Miller, 1999).
Therefore, according to the authors, the main aim of the waiting period is to prevent such individuals who are legally prohibited from purchasing a firearm. As the authors state, the effects that the Brady law has on the rates of homicide and suicide have not yet been analyzed since the enactment of this law in 1994.
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As explained by the authors, it is expected that an individual who had planned to shoot either himself or any other individual might change his mind during the 5-day waiting period. At the same time, the authors argue that the background information check plays a significant role in determining whether or not an individual is legally prohibited from purchasing and possessing a firearm.
Thus, if an individual falls under the category that prohibits him/her from purchasing a firearm, FFLs will stand a high chance of determining this within this 5-day window. However, it is always debatable whether this check actually reduces the level of homicide and suicide within the USA. With these two different scenarios in mind, the authors of this paper embarked on a study that aimed at comparing the rates of homicide and suicide within the USA before and after the implementation of the Brady Law.
Thus, their study focused on the homicide and suicide rates from the year 1985 to the year 1997. The aim of using these two different time periods is to determine whether the changes in the rates of homicide and suicide within the USA is as a result of the implementation of this policy.
To collect the relevant information that was required for this study, the authors analyzed the data that was collected from two sample groups; the treatment states and the control states. The treatment states comprised of the states that did not have any laws that governed the purchase of firearms. These are thus the states that had just implemented the Brady law.
Based on the overall goals of the bill, it was expected that the rates of homicide and suicide would be lower in the period that followed the implementation of the Act. The treatment states on the other hands comprised of states that had firearm purchase regulation laws. In these states, it was mandatory for FFLs to conduct a background check during the waiting period before an individual purchased a firearm. This regulation was in place even during the period prior to the implementation of the Brady law.
The main source of data for this study came from the National Centre for Health Statistics. This data was collected between 1985 and 1997 from the treatment and control states that were included in the study. Moreover, to ensure that the collected data was relevant for the study, the authors focused on individuals who were above the age of 21-55 years.
This is due to the fact that the individuals who are within this age bracket are highly prone to homicide and suicide as compare to the individuals who are below the age of 21 years. Thus, the total rate of homicide and suicide was calculated per 100,000 individuals between the 32 treatment states that were selected and compared with the 18 control states. Other factors that were included in this study were age, sex, the level of poverty, residency (rural/urban), and consumption of drugs and alcohol.
The results that were arrived at revealed that the rates of homicide and suicide for individuals aged between 21 and 55 years did not change significantly after the implementation of the Brady laws. However, the rates of suicide for individuals who were above the age of 55 years significantly reduced.
The authors. These results made the authors to conclude that the analysis of the Brady Act based on the rates of homicide and suicide is not effective since it does not consider the transfer of guns from treatment states to secondary gun markets within the USA.
The Sample Group
For a study to have conclusive results, it needs to utilize data collection and presentation techniques that are effective and efficient. On this regard, this study followed an experimental approach. Thus, the main outcomes of this study were:
- Firearm homicide
- Firearm suicide rates per 100,000 people in the treatment and control states for the study.
At the same time, this study laid a lot of emphasis on firearm deaths and injuries on the individuals who are above the age of 21 years. This is due to the fact that this is the main target group of the Brady Act. At the same time, it was assumed that this age group also comprised of a higher proportion of the perpetrators as well as the victims. As Basset (2003) asserted, it is critical to ensure that the selected sample group comprises of the variables that are essential for the study.
The authors of this study went further ahead to replicate this study on individuals who were 55 years of age and older. This is due to the fact that suicide rates are higher for older adults as compared to other groups within the USA population (Goss, 2006). It was thus essential for the study to consider the rates of suicide for individuals who fall within this age brackets before and after the implementation of the Brady Act to determine whether it had significant effects on suicide rates.
While collecting and analyzing the data for this study, the authors considered a number of factors to ensure that the results that they arrive at are conclusive with regards to their study aims. In this respect, this study focused on several factors that might have a direct influence on the rates of crime and violence within the nation. The first factor that the authors looked at was the consumption of alcohol per capita. Alcohol has always been considered as substance that impairs the judgment of individuals.
According to Cook et al (1999), an individual who is in such a state is prone to be involved in violent acts especially if he/she is in possession of a firearm. The percentage of individuals who fall within the sample population living within metropolitan regions is another factor that was considered in this study. In the USA, the level of violent crimes is much higher in urban areas as compared to rural areas (Goss, 2006). Another factor that was considered in this study was poverty and the level of income per worker.
Poverty, unemployment, and low income levels are among the leading factors that lead individuals into crime and other illegal activities. Therefore, it was essential for the authors to consider the effects that these factors have on homicide and suicide and whether they have increased or decreased after the implementation of the Brady Act.
Classification of Treatment States
After the Brady bill came into law, a total of 32 states were required to implement the 5-day waiting period as the Act stipulates. It was mandatory for these states to implement this law since they FFLs that operated within them did not have such a practice prior to the enactment of this law. The authors of this study referred to these states as “treatment” states. These included states such as New Mexico, Georgia, Kansas, Idaho and so on.
On the other hand, there were 18 states that had the 5-day waiting period before an individual can purchase a hand gun. Therefore, once the Brady bill became into law, these states did not change their prior practices with regards to the 5-day waiting period. As Cook et al (1999) asserted, these states had put in place the 5-day waiting period about 4 years prior to the implementation of the Brady Act. These states were referred by the authors of this study as “control” states.
The main aim of implementing the Brady Act was to reduce the rates of gun related violence within the USA. Therefore, to determine the levels of mortality as a result of gun violence within each state, the authors came up with an equation that considered the controlled variables that have been explained earlier. At the same time, the authors also considered state specific effects that might influence the level of gun violence.
To minimize the level of errors and to ensure that the results are accurate, the authors used the least squares method. Thus, the application of this equation clearly brings out the changes in homicide and suicide rates in a given state after the implementation of the Brady Act. However, there is also a possibility that these changes have come about as a result of other modeled factors that have changed the trend of gun violence within the USA.
In the USA, gun violence gas grown to become one of the leading menaces in the society. As Goss (2006) asserted, gun violence is one of the highly debated political issues in the USA. The report by Cook et al (1999) stated that this phenomenon is common within poor urban areas among young males. Based on these facts therefore, the authors of this papers have focused on a critical issue that has significant effects in the contemporary American society.
Since the enactment of the Brady Act was met by mixed reactions, it is thus critical to test whether or not this policy has had significant effects in reducing the rates of homicide and suicide in the USA. Therefore, the information contained in this study is beneficial since its results provide people with a concise view of the impacts that the Act has had in the reduction of gun violence within the nation.
It is essential for researchers to understand the developments that have been made in a particular topic of interest prior to conducting a study (Conkin, 2005). This enables them to understand the gaps in research that have been left in previous studies hence giving the current study a direction to follow. In lieu of this, the current study utilized the information that has been presented in studies and reports that have been conducted in the field of gun violence and the Brady Act.
By gathering the information that had been presented in these studies, the authors of this paper have developed a thorough understanding of the Brady Act and the role it plays in the reduction of gun violence within the USA. For instance, the study by Cook et al (1999) provided the authors with information regarding the flow of firearms from FFLs that operate in treatments states to secondary gun markets.
This phenomenon will highly affect the implementation of the Brady Act since it cannot be enforced in secondary gun markets. Thus, this study showed the need of incorporating stringent laws whose application will even capture the sale of guns in the illegal market.
As a result of this fact, the authors of this paper included state-specific fixed effects in their equation of calculating mortality rates after the implementation of the Brady Act to ensure that such factors are considered in their study. This consideration highly increased the validity and reliability of their results.
A theoretical framework is an essential tool in a research study since it is used to define the set the themes that originate from the literature review that are used to set the boundaries of the current study through conceptual mapping (Conkin, 2005). This tool should also describe the various concepts that are being studied and the relationship that exists between them. The aim of this paper was to determine the impacts of the Brady Act on homicide and suicide after its implementation.
From the information that was contained in the literature review, it was found that a high correlation exists between gun violence and factors such as poverty, metropolitan regions, alcohol abuse and so on. At the same time, it was found that the rates of suicide is higher for individuals who are above the age of 55 years. On this regard, the authors considered these trends and factors in their study in order to come up with results that can be used to justify the thesis of their study.
This study took an experimental design given the fact that it aimed at analyzing archived data through weighted least squares technique. Weighted least squares technique is one of the most effective tools for analyzing descriptive data. This method enables individuals to correct the heteroskedasticity of stochastic data (Ludwig and Cook, 2000). Moreover, this method enabled the process of data analysis and interpretation to be consistent with the theoretical framework hence increasing the validity and reliability of the study.
Moreover, to realize the thesis of this study, the author used two equations; the first equation focused on the mortality rates as a result of gun related violence. The target group of this equation was individuals who were within the ages of 21 and 55 years. According to Goss (2006), this is the age group that is more prone to being the perpetrators and victims of gun violence.
The second equation focused on suicide rates of individuals who are above the ages of 55 years. In the USA, this is the age group that has the highest rates of suicide. Therefore, use of weighted least squares techniques in conjunction with the two equations played a significant role in the arrival of reliable and valid results of this study.
However, unlike other studies that have been conducted on this topic, the current paper failed to have clearly defined research questions and/or hypothesis. Instead, the paper only focused on its main thesis; to determine the impacts of the Brady Act on homicide and suicide. Despite the clarity of the information that was contained the various segments of the paper, the lack of clearly defined research question greatly undermined the overall aim of the paper and the validity and relevance of the results that were collected.
As Bassett (2003) stated, research questions are essential tools in a scientific study since they act as a link between the literature that has been covered, the methods that will be used to conduct the study, and the manner in which the results will be interpreted. Thus, the arguments presented in this paper would have been more solid if clearly defined research questions, objectives, and hypothesis were used.
The sample size of this study comprised of 32 treatment states and 18 control states. While it is advised to have a large sample group to increase the generalizability and reliability of a given study, having such a large sample size with many factors and control variables might increase the level and extent of errors in a given study (Basset, 2003). Perhaps it is due to this fact that the authors could not find a significant difference in the rates of homicide before and after the implementation of the Brady Act.
The paper by Ludwig and Cook has been well presented. First, the paper focuses on a contemporary issue that is affecting the American society. The level of gun violence has been increasing with time. The implementation of the Brady Act in 1994 was expected to reduce the level of gun violence and suicide in the United States. The fact that this paper did not find a significant difference in the levels of homicide in the treatment states before and after the implementation of the Brady Act does not mean that gun violence and suicide have reduced.
According to The Brady Campaign (2014), approximately 32 people are killed daily in the USA as a result of gun violence while over 140 more are treated for gun related injuries. Moreover, at least 51 people kill themselves on a daily basis with a firearm while approximately another 45 are accidentally shot with a gun (Cook et al., 1999).
In addition to the deaths and injuries that come about with gun violence, this phenomenon also has a significant economic impact on individuals and the state at large. According to Cook et al (1999), violence costs the US tax payers approximately $100 billion annually. This figure is significant to the annual budget of the nation.
Through this paper, therefore, the authors have managed to showcase the trends of homicide and suicide rates as a result of firearms before and after the implementation of the Brady Act. The findings which state that the level of suicide has decreased since the introduction of the Brady Act clearly shows that the low has realized part of its overall mandate.
At the same time, the findings which showed that the rate of homicide has not decreased since the implementation of this law shows that there are other factors other than the purchase of firearms that have an impact in enhancing homicide and gun related injuries in the USA.
Thus, the information that has been presented in this paper can be useful to a number of individuals, bodies and agencies. Parents, for instance, can use this information to try and educate their children against the ill effect of gun violence. The youth on the other hand can use this information to reduce their engagement with the illegal possession and use of firearms.
On a larger scale, the entire US population can use this information as a means of developing sensible firearm usage within the community. Finally, the government and law making agencies can use this information to amend the Brady Act in order to enhance the effects that it has with regards to curbing gun violence in the USA.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Enacted in 1994, the Brady Act is a law enforced in the USA that aim at reducing gun violence by making it mandatory for FFLs to issue a 5-day waiting period before an individual can purchase a firearm. During this period, the FFLs are expected to conduct a background check to determine whether the purchaser is eligible to purchase and possess a firearm as per the requirements of the law.
Based on this fact, the current study was conducted to determine whether there has been a significant difference in homicide and suicide rates in the USA after the implementation of this law. To realize this objective, the study was conducted on 32 treatment states and 18 control states. It was found that there was no significant difference in the homicide rates in the treatment states before and after the implementation of this law. However, the rates of suicide for the elderly population had significantly reduced.
Based on the results of the study, it is evident that the Brady law has no significant impacts on homicide. However, it has greatly reduced the suicide rates of the elderly. Due to this fact I would like to recommend that the future studies should also incorporate the Brady Act can amended to curb the smuggling and illegal purchase of firearms into the USA.
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