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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU: Link between Gun Ownership Rates and Murders of Women

Women in states with higher rates of gun ownership are at greater risk of being killed by people they know than those in states where a smaller percentage of people own guns. And ownership rates alone explain 40 percent of the variation in women’s homicide victimization rates, compared to only 1.5 percent of the variation in men’s victimization rates, according to a new study by Boston University School of Public Health researchers.

The study, in the journal Violence and Gender, is the first to examine the relationship between state-level firearm ownership and homicide rates by stratifying by both gender and stranger versus non-stranger crimes. The researchers found a “substantial” association between state gun ownership rates and killings of women by guns, concluding that while there are multiple factors that predict rates of gun deaths in which males are the victims, “the prevalence of firearm ownership alone is enough to predict the rate of firearm-related homicide of females in a state quite well.”

Dr. Michael Siegel, lead author of the study and a professor of community health sciences at BU, noted that prior research has shown a correlation between state-level gun ownership rates and non-stranger homicides, defined as meaning that the victim and offender are family members or intimate partners or are otherwise acquainted. Distilling that association by gender is important, he said, because 88 percent of the killings of women in the US are committed by non-strangers.

“Because nearly 9 in 10 femicides are committed by non-strangers, and because 40 percent of the variance in femicide is explained by state-level firearm ownership rates alone, these findings are particularly germane for those with an interest in women’s homicide prevention,” said co-author Dr. Emily Rothman, associate professor of community health sciences at BU and an expert on domestic violence.

To read more about the study, go to: