June 13 (UPI) -- States currently use three criteria to screen out people who are prohibited from owning a firearm, with a new study suggesting one is more effective than the others at preventing shooting deaths.
States normally require gun buyers to either pass federally mandated background checks, go through comprehensive checks for private-party purchases or receive a background check along with license or permit.
"Licensing differs from a standard background check in important ways," Cassandra Crifasi, deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research and study lead author, said in a news release. "Comprehensive background checks are a necessary component of any system designed to keep guns from prohibited persons, but they are insufficient to reduce firearm-related deaths without a complementary system of purchaser licensing."
In states that require a license to own a gun, a prospective buyer must apply for a license through a law enforcement agency, pass a background check, frequently submit fingerprints and, in some states, receive gun safety training. These states typically have longer mandatory waiting periods, conduct more rigorous background checks and give law enforcement agencies more time to perform those checks.
Mandatory background checks, on the other hand, only require a gun buyer to go through a background check if they want to purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer.
While states that require comprehensive background checks but no gun license have fewer guns used for crimes, there is no significant drop in overall gun deaths.
In fact, one study of homicides in Missouri went up to 27 percent in 2016 after repealing its handgun purchaser licensing law in 2007.
By contrast, states with licensing requirements saw drastic declines in gun deaths, according to the study. For example, gun homicides in Connecticut dropped by 40 percent and gun suicides fell by 15 percent since the state enacted a licensing law in 1995, according to past researchers by the authors.
"The most likely reasons we see impacts on firearm homicides and suicides for licensing and not for comprehensive background checks without licensing center on the more direct interface between prospective purchasers and law enforcement and more robust systems for background checks," said Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. "These procedures may deter individuals who might otherwise make impulsive decisions to acquire a gun to hurt themselves or others."