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The Science of Gun Policy: A Critical Synthesis of Research Evidence on the Effects of Gun Policies in the United States, Second Edition

April 22, 2020

In this report, part of the RAND Corporation's Gun Policy in America initiative, researchers seek objective information about what the scientific literature reveals about the likely effects of various gun laws. In this second edition of an earlier work, the authors add five gun policies to the 13 examined in the original analysis and expand the study time frame to incorporate a larger body of research. With those adjustments, the authors synthesize the available scientific data on the effects of 18 policies on firearm deaths, violent crime, the gun industry, defensive gun use, and other outcomes. By highlighting where scientific evidence is accumulating, the authors hope to build consensus around a shared set of facts that have been established through a transparent, nonpartisan, and impartial review process. In so doing, they also illuminate areas where more and better information could make important contributions to establishing fair and effective gun policies.

Development of the RAND State Firearm Law Database and Supporting Materials

April 15, 2020

The RAND Corporation launched the Gun Policy in America initiative in January 2016 with the goal of creating objective, factual resources for policymakers and the public on the effects of gun laws. Research in this area has often consisted of cross-sectional studies examining how firearm outcomes differ in a particular year across states with different policies. Many fewer studies have used more-powerful longitudinal research designs for evaluating the effects of gun laws, partly because longitudinal data on most state gun laws are not widely available and are difficult and time-consuming to construct. Therefore, as part of the Gun Policy in America initiative, RAND developed a longitudinal data set of state firearm laws that is free to the public, including other researchers, to support improved analysis and understanding of the effects of various laws. In addition, the database is accompanied by a paper that documents the methods that RAND researchers used to construct the database and provides definitions and other information that will facilitate its use.

The Magnitude and Sources of Disagreement Among Gun Policy Experts

March 2, 2018

The effects of firearm policies have rarely been the subject of rigorous scientific evaluation in comparison with most other policies with similarly consequential effects on public safety, health, and the economy. Without strong scientific evidence of the effects of laws, policymakers and the public rely heavily on the expert judgments of advocates or social scientists. This makes gun policy experts' estimates of the true effects of policies an important influence on gun policy debates and decisions. In this report, RAND researchers describe the results of a survey in which gun policy experts estimated the likely effects of 15 gun-related policies on 12 societal outcomes. The researchers use these and other responses to establish the diversity of beliefs among gun policy experts about the true effects of gun laws, establish where experts are in more or less agreement on those effects, and evaluate whether differences in the policies favored by experts result from disagreements about the policies' true effects or disagreements in experts' policy objectives or values. The analysis suggests that experts on both sides of the gun policy debate share some objectives but disagree on which policies will achieve those objectives. Therefore, collecting more and stronger evidence about the true effects of policies is, the researchers believe, a necessary step toward building greater consensus.

The Role and Importance of the 'D' in PTSD

August 16, 2013

Recently, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) board of trustees voted on changes to the new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Among the decisions was one to retain the word "disorder" in the term "posttraumatic stress disorder." U.S. Army leadership initially requested a change in terminology, stating that the word "disorder" is stigmatizing and that removing it would encourage more individuals suffering from symptoms to access care. Although the APA has issued its ruling, the term "posttraumatic stress" is being used informally by some individuals within military communities. It is unclear whether informal use of the term will continue, or whether military leaders will continue to advocate future changes to the DSM. RAND explored the rationales for not changing the diagnostic terminology, and to the extent possible, anticipated what the effects of widespread informal use of new terminology might be.

A Needs Assessment of New York State Veterans: Final Report to the New York State Health Foundation, Summary

January 26, 2011

Mental health disorders and other types of impairments resulting from deployment experiences are beginning to emerge, but fundamental gaps remain in our knowledge about the needs of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the services available to meet those needs, and the experiences of veterans who have tried to use these services. The current study focuses directly on the veterans living in New York state; it includes veterans who currently use U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) services as well as those who do not; and it looks at needs across a broad range of domains. The authors collected information and advice from a series of qualitative interviews with veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)/Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) residing in New York, as well as their family members. In addition, they conducted a quantitative assessment of the needs of veterans and their spouses from a sample that is broadly representative of OEF/OIF veterans in New York state. Finally, they conducted a review the services currently available in New York state for veterans. The study found substantially elevated rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depression among veterans. It also found that both VA and non-VA services are critically important for addressing veterans' needs, and that the health care systems that serve veterans are extremely complicated. Addressing veterans' mental health needs will require a multipronged approach: reducing barriers to seeking treatment; improving the sustainment of, or adherence to, treatment; and improving the quality of the services being delivered. Finally, veterans have other serious needs besides mental health care and would benefit from a broad range of services.

Invisible Wounds of War: Psychological and Cognitive Injuries, Their Consequences, and Services to Assist Recovery

April 28, 2008

Since October 2001, approximately 1.64 million U.S. troops have been deployed for Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) in Afghanistan and Iraq. Early evidence suggests that the psychological toll of these deployments may be disproportionately high compared with the physical injuries of combat. Research has focused primarily on three conditions: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Karney et al. review the empirical literature on these three conditions, focusing on research that supports projections about the likely outcomes for OEF/OIF veterans and their families. These include an increased risk of suicide, substance abuse, and cardiovascular disease. Mental health conditions among veterans are also associated with reduced work productivity and future job prospects and may be a precursor to homelessness. Post-combat mental health disorders also affect servicemembers' spouses and children: For example, each of the three disorders has been linked to intimate partner violence and divorce. The authors also emphasize that it is common for veterans with one of the three conditions -- PTSD, depression, or TBI -- to also develop another of the three, and such individuals tend to experience more severe symptoms, poorer treatment outcomes, and more disability in social and occupation function. Karney et al. conclude with two series of recommendations: one for future research, and one for policy and interventions to mitigate the consequences of post-combat mental health conditions.

Post-Deployment Stress: What Families Should Know, What Families Can Do

April 17, 2008

Information is covered for families of veterans returning from deployment in Iraq or Afghanistan about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and other emotional and behavioral problems that veterans may face. Before developing this pamphlet, companion to CP-534-IADIF (Post-Deployment Stress: What You Should Know, What You Can Do), RAND surveyed a couple hundred existing educational materials on these topics. The researchers then coded and classified these materials and reviewed them to identify gaps in information and to isolate the best materials from which to draw upon. Based on these refined materials, the booklet was further improved by feedback from RAND Corporation experts, other military mental health experts, and nine focus groups including service members and their families.