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What Missouri’s Gun Law Change Did, by Daniel Webster, Special to CNN, post by Jason Miks, CNN

CNN Editor’s note: Daniel Webster is director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research and Professor of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The views expressed are his own.


Many Americans have a built in bias when they’re considering the potential for gun laws to reduce violence. After all, our TV screens are regularly filled with stories about gun violence – a gang member suspected in a triple shooting in South Chicago, an estranged husband murders a woman and then commits suicide, a shooting at local night club, scores dead and injured after a gunman opens fire in a crowded movie theater.

So it might seem logical that with so many dangerous people apparently determined to kill, and so many guns already in circulation and available to those individuals, that efforts to prevent killings through gun laws are futile. It’s an idea encouraged by the rhetoric of the National Rifle Association and others who argue that criminals, by definition, won’t obey gun laws.

But our perceptions of reality can be distorted by the things that we don’t see every day – what the media does not or cannot report.  For example, aside from the FBI’s records of the number of individuals who don’t pass background checks when attempting to purchase a firearm, we simply cannot know how many people don’t even try to buy a gun because they are disqualified from possessing guns.