New York’s SAFE Act: A Decisive Strike Against Gun Mortality?

After New York passed the SAFE Act in 2013, the state experienced a drop in gun-related deaths, highlighting the importance of legislation in mitigating the impact of community gun violence.

graph depicting the gun-related mortality rate (per 100,000) for the state of New York and a synthetic New York State before and after the passage of the SAFE Act in 2013

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In the state of New York, over a thousand lives are lost to firearms each year. The New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act of 2013 stands as the state’s answer a decade later, imposing strict firearm regulations that include measures such as strict background checks, a broad definition of banned assault weapons, and a prohibition of high-capacity magazines.

The SAFE Act was passed after a series of widely publicized mass shootings in 2012, including one at Sandy Hook Elementary School where six adults and twenty children were killed. Today, the SAFE Act remains one of the toughest gun control laws in the U.S.

Ibraheem M. Karaye, Gaia Knight, and Corinne Kyriacou took a deep dive into the effectiveness of the SAFE Act on gun-related deaths. They collected and examined two decades of state-level firearm mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Wide-Ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER) database.

The graph above shows a drop in gun deaths in New York following the enactment of the SAFE Act in 2013—illustrated by the solid line and continuing an earlier trend. In contrast, the dashed line represents a projection for New York if there had not been the legislative change, based on the average of gun mortality rates from other states which began to show increasing gun-related deaths in 2013. The difference between the two lines emphasizes the number of lives that may have been saved due to the stricter gun control measures.

Not only the passage of, but the sustained enforcement of gun safety legislation shields communities from the devastating impact of gun violence over years.

Databyte via Ibraheem M. Karaye, Gaia Knight, and Corrine Kyriacou. Association Between the New York SAFE Act and Firearm Suicide and Homicide: An Analysis of Synthetic Controls, New York State, 1999-2019. American Journal of Public Health, 2023.