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Multiple studies have found that an abuser’s access to firearms increases the likelihood that the abuser will use a firearm to shoot and kill a partner during an act of domestic abuse. This finding suggests that removing that access could be a promising method for preventing domestic gun violence. Although certain domestic abusers are prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms under federal law, there is no mechanism for the courts and law enforcement to ensure that offenders get rid of any guns in their possession. This fact has led some states to enact gun relinquishment laws that define both a legal process for prohibited abusers to surrender any firearms in their possession and sanctions for not complying with the law. Evidence suggests that gun relinquishment laws are an effective method of preventing intimate partner homicide and may decrease the likelihood that domestic abusers are rearrested. This research is promising, but there are key gaps that remain in our understanding of the effectiveness of gun relinquishment laws for preventing gun violence. First, despite that nonfatal gun violence 1) occurs more frequently than fatal gun violence, 2) precedes fatal violence, and 3) results in substantial costs to victims, their families, and society, prior studies have focused on homicide rates as an outcome. Second, gun relinquishment laws often extend to domestic relationships other than intimate partners, yet most studies focus on intimate partner violence. Third, because domestic abusers commit not-domestic forms of violence, research should address whether these laws prevent domestic and not-domestic forms of gun violence.

To address these gaps, in this dissertation I use crime victimization data from the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) and the synthetic control method (SCM) to test for a relationship between gun relinquishment laws for domestic violence offenses and levels and characteristics of domestic and not-domestic gun violence. After identifying 17 states with adequate NIBRS coverage between 2005-14, I reviewed the laws in each state and determined that 2 states enacted gun relinquishment laws for domestic violence offenses during this time and could be evaluated: Iowa and Tennessee. Using the SCM, for both domestic and not-domestic violence, I test whether these states experienced a change in a) the rate of gun violence, b) the proportion of violent acts that involved a gun, or c) the lethality of severe assaults following their gun relinquishment law going into effect. The findings were often in the expected direction, though none were statistically significant. Although the lack of statistically significant findings could be a function of the study’s design, the results show much uncertainty in the estimated relationships. In addition, supplemental analyses with greater statistical power support these results. Future research should replicate this dissertation’s design as NIBRS data continue to improve and should pursue other study designs like individual-level analyses.