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Gun laws and school safety
  1. Marco Ghiani1,
  2. Summer Sherburne Hawkins2,
  3. Christopher F Baum1,2,3
  1. 1 Department of Economics, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA
  2. 2 School of Social Work, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, USA
  3. 3 Department of Macroeconomics, German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin), Berlin, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Dr Marco Ghiani, Department of Economics, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA; ghiani{at}


Background This paper examines the associations between state-level gun control and adolescent school safety overall and by student sex, age, and race.

Methods We used data on 926 639 adolescents from 45 states in the 1999–2015 Youth Risk Behavior Surveys. Students self-reported on weapon carrying at school, the number of times they experienced weapon threats or injuries at school, the number of school days missed due to feeling unsafe, and weapon carrying at any location. For each state and year, 133 gun laws were combined into an index of gun control strength. Difference-in-differences logistic regression models were used to evaluate the associations of stricter gun laws with binary measures of students’ weapon carrying and perception of school safety, controlling for individual and state characteristics, as well as year and state fixed effects.

Results An IQR increase in the index (ie, a 15-point increase corresponding to a strengthening of gun control) was associated with a 0.8-percentage point decrease in the probability of weapon threats at school (p=0.029), a 1.1-percentage point decrease in the probability of missing school due to feeling unsafe (p=0.002) and a 1.9-percentage point decrease in the probability of carrying weapons at any location (p=0.001). Stricter gun laws had a stronger negative association with weapon carrying among males compared with females. Stricter gun laws were also differentially associated with weapon carrying by race/ethnicity.

Conclusions The adoption of stricter state gun laws was associated with improvements in school climate and subjective perceptions of safety.

  • adolescents cg
  • public health policy
  • health behaviour

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  • Contributors MG, SSH and CFB compiled the data. MG designed and conducted the analyses and completed the first draft of the paper. SSH and CFB oversaw the design of the study, facilitated the interpretation of the findings and helped to revise the paper. All authors have seen and approved the final version of the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.