Political Science


Pearson-Merkowitz, Shanna

Advisor Department

Political Science




guns; trafficking; economics; markets; consumers; gun laws

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.


Legislators face a compelling dilemma, how can they decrease the prevalence of gun violence? Cities and States around the United States have laws intended to prevent violent criminals from acquiring and using weapons, but it remains debatable whether these laws are effective.

This study posits that guns are subject to the laws of supply and demand and the variable gun laws in states across the country decreases the effectiveness of local and state gun legislation. In short, guns are trafficked across state lines to meet demand in states with stricter gun laws.

Data for the study was collected from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. The analysis shows a strong positive correlation between the strength of a state’s overall gun laws and the proportion of firearms it imports from other states.

This analysis offers compelling evidence that as states adopt laws to restrict in-state purchases of weapons, innovative consumers will turn to other, less restrictive markets. This is a possible explanation for why state and local gun laws may be ineffective at curbing gun violence and why federal legislation is necessary.