Sociology, Department of


First Advisor

Regina Werum

Second Advisor

Philip Schwadel

Date of this Version

Summer 7-15-2020


Ratcliff, Shawn. 2020. "The Relationship Between State-Level Dynamics, Firearm Policies, and County-Level Homicides." PhD, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Sociology ,Under the Supervision of Professors Regina E. Werum and Philip Schwadel. Lincoln, Nebraska: June, 2020

Copyright © 2020 Shawn M. Ratcliff


This dissertation examines the causes and effects of four major firearm-related policies in the United States: Concealed Carry Weapons (CCW), Stand Your Ground (SYG), Child Access Prevention (CAP), and Universal Background Checks (UBC). Applying a social movement approach, the first research question addresses how a social movement organization (SMO) has employed resources to shape the adoption of (counter-)movement-related legislation. Using the gun rights movement as a case-in-point, I explore how campaign contributions – conceptualized as a professionalized SMO resource – have been employed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) to shape the adoption of CCW, SYG, CAP, and UBC laws at the state-level between 1990 and 2016. Employing event-history analyses and mediation models, I find campaign contributions are associated with social movement successes – in this case, policy adoption – albeit indirectly: NRA campaign contributions have no direct association with the adoption of any state-level firearm-related legislation. However, campaign contributions do effectively shape the percentage of Republican legislators in a given state’s legislature which, in turn, increases the adoption of gun rights laws (SYG) and decreases the adoption of gun control laws (CAP).

The second research question examines the extent to which state-level firearm-related policies affect local-level homicides above and beyond socio-criminological correlates. Although the majority of homicides are conducted with a firearm and homicides vary greatly across counties, gun policy scholarship has often ignored socio-criminological insights and, in turn, may be making inaccurate inferences about the impact of gun policies on homicides, including firearm-related homicides. Analyses presented in this chapter employ hierarchical (i.e., counties nested in states) logistic and negative-binomial models to address substantive and methodological shortcomings in extant gun policy research. Focusing on recent homicide data (2014-2016), results indicate socio-criminological correlates, specifically at the county-level, robustly explain variation in the number of reported homicides, including those associated with firearms. In contrast, state-level gun policies do not seem to provide any additional explanation of county-level homicide variation above these correlates.

Advisors: Regina E. Werum and Philip Schwadel