CRIM 490 / GOVT 444 (Instructor: C. Koper)
Instructions for class project assignment (Spring 2020)
The assignment for your course project is to analyze gun policies, gun availability, and gun violence in one or a select group of states and make recommendations for policy changes and/or law enforcement practices for reducing gun crime in the selected state(s). Further instructions are provided here to guide you in developing your project. For your analysis, please use the state-level class database which has indicators of gun availability, gun homicide, and other crime and social indicators. The website of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence ( is the recommended source for information on state gun laws.
For your assignment, please choose one of the following options. Be sure to address that option in full.
Option 1:
Assessment of a selected state. Pick a particular state to study. Discuss key gun laws in this state (including ones we have discussed in class as well as any others of interest to you) and examine how this state compares to others with respect to its indicators of gun availability and gun crime. Based on your analyses and other research evidence, are there any particular laws that you would recommend adopting, strengthening, or removing in this state? Are there enforcement and prevention measures that you would recommend for this state based on available research evidence?
Option 2:
Assessment of a particular type of gun law. Select a particular type of gun law (for example, licensing or permit laws or laws with restrictions on gun possession by people with non-domestic misdemeanor convictions) and examine states that have that type of law. Describe how the type of law in question operates in these states. How do states with this type of law compare to other states with respect to indicators of gun availability and gun crime? Do there appear to be variations in this type of law that limit or enhance effectiveness? Based on your analyses and other research evidence, would you recommend that other states adopt this type of law? Alternatively, would you recommend strengthening or removing this type of law in the states that have it? Are there other enforcement or prevention measures that you would recommend for these states to reduce gun crime based on available research evidence?
Option 3:
Comparative analysis of selected states. Choose a state that has a high rate of gun homicide and a high share of homicides committed with guns. Also choose a state that is comparatively lower on its gun homicide rate and share of homicides committed with a gun. Try to pick states that are reasonably comparable in their levels of urbanicity and levels of overall violence but differ on the gun measures. How do gun laws vary across these states, particularly with respect to the gun laws we have discussed in class? What recommendations would you make for these states with respect to adopting, strengthening, or removing certain gun laws based on your analyses and other available research evidence? Are there other enforcement or prevention approaches you would recommend for these states based on available research evidence?

Additional general instructions and suggestions.
In addition to your comparative analyses of different states, please also provide evidence for your arguments. At a minimum, you should reference applicable research from class lectures and readings. You are also strongly encouraged to seek other applicable studies that go beyond the class readings (adding just a few additional studies would suffice). Besides the research discussed in class, note that the Giffords website has many helpful references to research on different types of state laws. Consider evidence that might be relevant to the rationales, implementation, and impacts of different laws. You are also encouraged to consider public support for specific gun laws as part of your argument (see the April 16th reading by Barry and colleagues).
When considering other enforcement / prevention measures, look ahead to our later readings on focused deterrence and police strategies to reduce gun violence. The Koper, Woods, and Kubu article in particular (see the reading for April 7th) discusses a range of strategies that police can use to reduce gun crime and potentially improve enforcement of existing laws.
When making comparisons across states, pay particular attention to the following gun-related indicators: • Percentage of suicides with a gun, which is our proxy for general gun availability • Gun homicide rate, which reflects the level of gun violence, controlling for population size • Percentage of homicides with a gun, which reflects gun availability to violent offenders, controlling for overall violence levels • Total homicide rate (which may be increased by greater gun use)
Other measures in the database may be helpful in your analysis. The violent crime rate reflects the overall level of violence in the state adjusted for population and may not be strongly related to the gun measures, as violent crime is affected by many social factors. For example, two states may have similar violence levels, but they may differ in their levels of gun availability and gun crime, perhaps leading to differences in their homicide rates. The percentage of the population that is urban may also be helpful in making comparisons across states because more urbanized areas tend to have higher crime rates. Finally, the measure of in-state gun sources provides a measure of how much the criminal gun market in a state is supplied by in-state versus out of state sources. Different supply side enforcement strategies may be appropriate in different types of states.
Presentation of results
Prepare a short paper with your findings and recommendations. You may present your numerical analyses in tables or charts if desired, but this is not required. The text of your paper should be 3-5 pages double-spaced with 12-point font and 1-inch margins. Your paper should also include a reference page for research studies and other sources you cite. The reference page does not count towards the paper length. Please present the references in a standard format like APA style. The paper is due by 11:59 pm on April 23, 2020. Send your paper to the instructor via email (
Students will have an opportunity to give a short presentation on their projects at the end of the semester (likely 5-10 minutes depending on the number that wish to present). This is not a requirement,
but it will be factored into each student’s grade for class attendance and participation, which can boost your overall course grade. If you choose to give a presentation, you may use visuals (PowerPoint, Word, Excel) for your presentation if desired. Student presentations will be on April 28 and 30, so you should be prepared to present by April 28. Please let the instructor know by April 2 if you plan to present your project.

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