Closing the so-called "gun show loophole" and placing a ban on assault weapons have been major talking points people in favor of stronger gun control laws, but a study published Thursday in the British medical journal The Lancet suggests that these moves would actually result in more gun deaths, not less
To reduce firearm mortality, the study's authors say the federal government should focus on implementation of universal background checks and firearm identification nationally. Such a move, the study's findings show, could cut the rate of gun deaths by more than 90 percent.
"It's pretty clear to me that we will drop firearm mortality if we implemented those legislation nationwide," says Dr. Sandro Galea, one of the study's authors and dean of the Boston University School of Public Health.
See images of Obama addressing the nation on gun control:
Obama addressing the nation on U.S. shootings & gun control during his presidency
Study: Some gun control laws result in more deaths
An emotional President Barack Obama, joined by Vice President Joe Biden, pauses as he recalled the 20 first-graders killed in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School, while speaking in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016, about steps his administration is taking to reduce gun violence. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
US President Barack Obama gets emotional as he delivers a statement on executive actions to reduce gun violence on January 5, 2016 at the White House in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama delivers a statement on executive actions to reduce gun violence on January 5, 2016 at the White House in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama makes a statement on Wednesday's mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Barack Obama makes a statement on Wednesday's mass shooting in San Bernandino, Calif., Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015, about the shooting at the community college in Oregon. The shooting happened at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., about 180 miles south of Portland. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015, about the shooting at the community college in Oregon. The shooting happened at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., about 180 miles south of Portland. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
President Barack Obama, left, sits with FBI Director James Comey, right, before speaking to members of the media in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Thursday, July 16, 2015, on the shooting in Chattanooga, Tenn. A gunman unleashed a barrage of fire at a recruiting station and another U.S. military site, killing at least four Marines. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama walks across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Thursday, July 16, 2015, upon his arrival on Marine One helicopter after a short trip from Andrews Air Force Base, Md. Obama was heading towards the Oval Office and there he would be briefed by his counterterrorism and homeland security adviser and the FBI director on the recent shooting in Chattanooga, Tenn. Obama promised a thorough and prompt investigation into an attack at two military sites that killed at least four Marines. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama claps along to the music as he arrives with first lady Michelle Obama for services honoring the life of Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Friday, June 26, 2015, at the College of Charleston TD Arena in Charleston, S.C. Pinckney was one of the nine people killed in the shooting at Emanuel AME Church last week in Charleston. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
In this June 19, 2015, photo, President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks about gun violence at the Annual Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in San Francisco. Conceding that congressional action was unlikely soon, President Barack Obama said lawmakers will tighten federal firearms restrictions when they believe the public is demanding it. "I am not resigned," Obama said. "I have faith we will eventually do the right thing." (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Barack Obama, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, pauses while speaking in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, June 18, 2015, on the church shooting in Charleston, S.C., prior to his departure to Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Barack Obama pauses while speaking in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, June 18, 2015, on the church shooting in Charleston, S.C., prior to his departure to Los Angeles. The current brick Gothic revival edifice, completed in 1891 to replace an earlier building heavily damaged in an earthquake, was a mandatory stop for the likes of Booker T. Washington and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Still, Emanuel was not just a church for the black community. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
President Barack Obama listens to a question during a Tumblr forum from the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 10, 2014, moderated by Tumblr Founder and CEO David Karp, left. During the forum Obama conceded he was ashamed as an American and terrified as a parent that the United States can't find it in its soul to put a stop to rampant shooting sprees. Barring a fundamental shift in public opinion, Obama said, "it will not change." (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Barack Obama pauses while speaking during a memorial ceremony, Wednesday, April 9, 2014, at Fort Hood, Texas, for those killed there in a shooting last week. President Barack Obama is reprising his role as chief comforter as he returns once again to a grief-stricken corner of America to mourn with the families of those killed last week at Fort Hood and offer solace to the nation.(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrive for a memorial ceremony, Wednesday, April 9, 2014, at Fort Hood Texas, for those killed there in a shooting last week. President Barack Obama is reprising his role as chief comforter as he returns once again to a grief-stricken corner of America to mourn with the families of those killed last week at Fort Hood and offer solace to the nation.(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Barack Obama is seen on stage before speaking about yesterday's shooting at Fort Hood, during an event welcoming members of the USs teams from the 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, Thursday, April 3, 2014, in the East Room of White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
AP10ThingsToSee - President Barack Obama hugs a family member of a victim of the Washington Navy Yard shooting at Marine Barracks in Washington during a memorial service Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. A gunman killed 12 people in the Navy Yard on Sept. 16 before being fatally shot in a gun battle with law enforcement. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama attend a memorial service for the victims of the Washington Navy Yard shooting at Marine Barracks Washington Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. A gunman killed 12 people in the Navy Yard on Monday, Sept. 16, 2013, before being fatally shot in a gun battle with law enforcement. The president and first lady Michelle Obama also visited with the victims' families. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks in the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex, Monday, Sept. 16, 2013, in Washington. Before speaking about the economy Obama spoke on the shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, mourning what he called "yet another mass shooting" in the United States that he says took the life of American patriots. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
FILE - In this April 17, 2013 file photo President Barack Obama speaks in the White House Rose Garden of the White House about measures to reduce gun violence with former Rep. Gabby Giffords and family of victims of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting. Six months after a gunman took their children's lives, some family members are headed back to Capitol Hill this week to remind lawmakers they are painfully waiting for action. From left are Neil Heslin, who lost his son Jesse Lewis; Giffords; Jimmy Greene, who lost his daughter Ana; Vice President Joe Biden; Nicole Hockley, who lost her son Dylan; Mark and Jackie Barden, with their children Natalie and James, who lost their son Daniel; and Jeremy Richman, behind the Barden's, who lost his daughter Avielle. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
President Barack Obama looks at Nicole Hockley and her husband Ian, right, after she introduced him at the University of Hartford in Hartford, Conn., Monday, April 8, 2013. The Hockley's lost a child in the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtoen, Conn. Obama said that lawmakers have an obligation to the children killed and other victims of gun violence to act on his proposals. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Obama embraces a woman while honoring shooting victim's families during a visit to the University of Hartford, in Hartford, Conn., Monday, April 8, 2013. The President visited the school to highlight gun control legislation and to meet with the families of victims from the Sandy Hook elementary school shootings.(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
FILE - In this Jan. 16, 2013, file photo, President Barack Obama, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, talks about proposals to reduce gun violence at the White House in Washington. Obama has called for a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines and is pushing other policies in the wake of the mass shooting last month at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. In response, gun-rights advocates have accused Obama and others of ignoring the Second Amendment rights of Americans. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, left, hugs eight-year-old letter writer Grant Fritz during a news conference on proposals to reduce gun violence, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, in the South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington. Obama and Biden were joined by law enforcement officials, lawmakers and children who wrote the president about gun violence following the shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., last month. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
FILE - This Dec. 16, 2012 file photo shows President Barack Obama pausing during a speech at an interfaith vigil for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, at Newtown High School in Newtown, Conn. The National Rifle Association, the nationâs largest gun lobby, suggested shielding children from gun violence by placing an armed police officer in every school by the time classes resume in January. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci, File)
President Barack Obama wipes his eye as he talks about the Connecticut elementary school shooting, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, in the White House briefing room in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks about the Aurora, Colo., shooting at an campaign event at the Harborside Event Center in Ft. Myers, Fla., Friday, July 20, 2012. Obama, who was scheduled to spend the day campaigning in Florida, cancelled his campaign events to return to Washington to monitor the shooting. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
FILE - In this March 14, 2011, file photo President Barack Obama speaks at Kenmore Middle School in Arlington, Va. More than five months after Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head, the White House has yet to take any new steps on gun violence, even though thatâs what Obama called for in the wake of the shooting. (AP Photo, File)
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are joined by government employees on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, Jan. 10, 2011, to observe a moment of silence for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and the other victims of an assassination attempt against her. The shooting at a town hall-style event outside a supermarket in Tucson, Ariz., Saturday left six dead, including a federal judge, and critically wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks at a memorial service for the victims of Saturday's shootings at McKale Center on the University of Arizona campus Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Victims' family members, along with President Obama, attend a memorial service at Fort Hood, Texas, for the victims of the Fort Hood shootings on Tuesday Nov. 10, 2009. (AP Photo/Jay Janner, POOL)
President Barack Obama speaks at a memorial service in Fort Hood, Texas on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2009 for the victims of Thursday's shootings. (AP Photo/Pool, Jay Janner)
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But David Hemenway, professor of public policy at Harvard School of Public Health, took issue with the methodology in an accompanying comment published in The Lancet. He pointed to the projection that deaths would be reduced by 90 percent. It was difficult to project, he wrote, whether any one law could decrease gun deaths. In an interview he said many studies about gun control are limited. "I could find serious problems with virtually any U.S. study about gun laws," he says.
For the study, researchers looked at 25 state gun control laws to try to draw conclusions about which ones had the most impact on gun deaths. Its findings suggest that nine laws were associated with an increase in gun deaths, nine were associated with a decrease, and the remaining showed no association. For example, laws that restrict firearm access to children, including age restrictions, were shown to be ineffective.
The federal gun control law passed in 1993 – known as the Brady Bill – mandates federal background checks on gun buyers, but around 40 percent of all gun sales in the U.S. are estimated to be private transactions that don't require background checks. The "gun show loophole" refers to a broader provision that allows people to buy guns from unlicensed dealers at a gun show or elsewhere without universal background checks.
To keep guns out of the hands of people who have a history of violent crime, domestic violence, substance abuse and severe mental illness, states have enacted various additional laws. In some states, lower gun ownership and stricter gun laws appear to be to be associated with fewer gun deaths. The Lancet study looked at these laws as well.
Stand-your-ground laws – which allow someone to use deadly force in self-defence – as well as permitting law enforcement discretion when issuing concealed-carry permits, appeared to be associated with higher gun deaths. Other laws that appeared associated with higher gun deaths included limiting the number of guns people can buy, a three-day limit for a background-checks extension, locks on firearms and allowing police to inspect stores.
The NRA declined to comment, other than to point out they took issue with the methodology, including that the study does not acknowledge states have different approaches to suicide prevention. Two-thirds of gun deaths are by suicide, and more than 21,000 people kill themselves with a gun each year.
For the study, researchers used data from multiple years over a short timeframe as they were available. They included firearm-related deaths, including suicides, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2008 to 2010; firearm-related laws implemented in 2009; state-specific characteristics such as firearm ownership for 2013; firearm export rates and non-firearm homicide rates for 2009; and unemployment rates for 2010.
They then projected what the laws' impact would have been had they been implemented from Nov. 1, 2014, to May 15, 2015.
While the researchers tried to control for some variables, like unemployment and gun exports, Hemenway commented that many other factors were not controlled for, including poverty, alcohol consumption, urbanicity and mental health. The data also were collected only during the course of a year, he writes, so the authors could not compare the rates of firearm deaths before or after laws were passed.
When asked about the limited timeframe for the study, Galea replied that a longer time period had drawbacks."The trouble is that over a long time period there are other society influences that can be introduced," he says.
Findings do not take into account gun-related deaths that occur with illegally obtained weapons. The number of deaths caused by guns purchased illegally isn't known. Weapons are only recovered from gun crimes in a small fraction of cases, and even then it is often difficult to determine how the person who committed the crime got their gun – they could have passed a background check by using someone else's driver's license, for instance.
"We don't assume anything about where guns come from," Galea says, acknowledging that illegal gun deaths could climb after implementing stricter gun-control laws. "The projections are no longer going to be accurate because they are based on the current reality."
Medical groups have in recent years been pushing for moves to reduce gun violence through gun-control measures and studies, which they liken to a public health approach. Data are limited in part because for a time the CDC was not permitted to conduct studies on gun violence. Though President Barack Obama lifted the ban about three years ago, funding for such research has still not been made available.