MSU Newsroom: Gun restrictions, the College Labor Market and Robots

 Broader gun restrictions lead to fewer intimate partner homicides 

EAST LANSING, MI — State laws that restrict gun ownership among domestic abusers and others with violent histories appear to significantly reduce intimate partner homicides, indicates a groundbreaking national study led by a Michigan State University researcher.  
The findings, which come on the heels of the Texas church massacre by a man with a history of domestic violence, suggest state laws with broader gun restrictions are more effective at preventing homicides among romantic partners — even if the laws do not exclusively target domestic abuse.
Currently, 13 states and federal law prohibit gun purchases by individuals convicted of domestic violence; the study finds that states that extend this ban to people convicted of any violent misdemeanor experience 23 percent fewer intimate partner homicides.
Reductions in domestic partner homicides were also more pronounced when gun-restriction laws included dating partners (not just spouses or ex-spouses) and a requirement that abusers surrender their firearms.
April Zeoli, MSU associate professor of criminal justice and primary investigator on the research, said broader gun-restriction laws could potentially save the lives of hundreds of domestic violence victims every year. Of the 1,352 intimate partner homicides in 2015, 55 percent were committed by firearms, according to the FBI.
“The evidence from this study and previous research highly suggests that firearm restrictions work to reduce intimate partner homicides and that laws need to be comprehensive when we think about populations most at risk for committing intimate partner violence,” Zeoli said. “Expanding restrictions from those who have been convicted of domestic violence to those who have been convicted of any violent misdemeanor, and including dating partners in domestic violence firearm laws would likely result in even greater reductions.” 
The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, is co-authored by Alexander McCourt, Shani Buggs, Shannon Frattaroli and Daniel Webster, all from the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, and David Lilley from the University of Toledo. The work is funded by The Joyce Foundation.
The researchers studied the effects of firearm restrictions on intimate partner homicides in the 45 states with available data over a 34-year period, 1980 to 2013.
Twenty-nine states had laws restricting firearms in domestic violence cases when a restraining order had been issued. These laws were linked to a 9 percent reduction in intimate partner homicides, reinforcing past research with strikingly similar findings, Zeoli said. 
But the MSU-led study went deeper than past research by examining other state laws that restrict gun access. Among the findings:
*Restraining orders for dating partners that include firearm restrictions (present in 22 states) were linked to a 10 percent decrease in romantic partner homicides and a 14 percent reduction in partner homicides committed with firearms. Dating partner statutes go beyond traditional domestic violence restraining order laws, which cover spouses, ex-spouses, couples that live together or have lived together and couples that have children together. Zeoli noted that nearly half of intimate partner homicides are committed by dating partners who often aren’t covered by these traditional partner categories in firearm-restriction laws.
*Gun restrictions that cover emergency restraining orders in domestic violence cases were associated with a 12 percent reduction in intimate partner homicides. 
*Permit-to-purchase laws were linked to a 11 percent reduction in intimate partner homicides. These laws, active in ten states including Michigan and New York, require a permit from a law enforcement agency – and thus a criminal background check – to purchase a firearm. (While federal law requires a criminal background check to buy a gun from a licensed dealer, most states allow the purchase of firearms from private sellers without a background check. Other states mandate background checks for all gun sales, but don’t require a permit or interaction with law enforcement.)
*Laws requiring individuals with domestic violence restraining orders to relinquish firearms were associated with a 22 percent reduction in firearm intimate partner homicide.
The man who authorities say fatally shot 26 people at a Texas church had been court-martialed in the Air Force after pleading guilty to domestic abuse. The Air Force is investigating how it failed to report the information that would have blocked the shooter from buying the rifle he used in the attack from a store in San Antonio.
But even if the information had been submitted and the shooter had flunked his background check, he still could have bought guns through unregulated private sale in Texas or most other states.
Zeoli said the mounting scientific research on the issue clearly indicates that broader gun restrictions may be one answer to curbing homicides by intimate partners.
“Our findings are consistent with prior research, supporting the claim that prohibiting domestic violence abusers from having firearms saves lives,” she said. “This new evidence suggests that laws that disarm the largest number of people with histories of violence, require permits for handgun purchasers and require relinquishment of firearms for those who are prohibited from having them are effective in reducing domestic homicides.”
College labor market remains strong
EAST LANSING, MI — Employers will face tough competition for talent in the 2017-18 job market, thanks to a seven-year growth streak in the college labor market, according to Michigan State University’s Recruiting Trends, the largest annual survey of employers in the nation.
This year’s graduates will enter one of the longest sustained periods of job growth, which puts them at an advantage, said Phil Gardner, survey author and director of MSU’s Collegiate Employment Research Institute.
Fueled by turnover and company growth, hiring is expected to increase 19 percent, driven by a 15 percent increase for bachelor’s degrees and 40 percent for associate’s degrees.
“I’m stilled wowed at how strong this market is,” Gardner said. “There should be no complaints anywhere about jobs. So if students aren’t ready, they’re going to get passed over.”
Recruiting Trends 2017-18 summarizes data from 3,370 employers from every major industrial sector from every state. The employers represented in the survey plan to hire 74,000 new graduates.
Of note, small companies plan to add two to four more new hires than last year and are recruiting actively at the associate’s level.
The competitive college labor market has provided employers with challenges, Gardner said. For small companies, the largest challenge is finding candidates with “soft skills,” such as cultural appreciation, flexibility, empathy and teamwork. At the same time, larger companies report competition from other employers as their largest hurdle in hiring college graduates.
Other key findings from the survey:
*      The construction industry continues to grow, especially in the aftermath of recent weather incidents, with the most construction companies reporting in the survey since 2007. In addition, retail trade will hire in larger numbers this year.
*        Even though the college labor market remains strong, only 39 percent of employers said they would increase salaries, averaging 4.1 percent. Sixty-one percent reported salaries would stay the same. However, the number of employers offering signing bonuses nearly doubled.
*        Fewer employers are seeking specific groups of majors, such as technical or business. Employers who selected “all majors” report the highest level of growth at 18 percent. The jobs most difficult to fill are skilled trades, skilled medical, scientists and mathematicians.
*        Employers plan to hire more than 40,000 interns and co-ops with an average of 40 per organization. But only 65 percent will pay interns, continuing a decline that returns intern payments to the level reported in 2011-12.
If college grads are struggling to find employment, they need to seek help, such as career coaching and interview practice, Gardner said. And soon-to-be-graduates should take advantage of their university’s career planning resources.
Robot learning improves student engagement
EAST LANSING, MI — The first-ever study of Michigan State University’s pioneering robot-learning course shows that online students who use the robots feel more engaged and connected to the instructor and students in the classroom.
Stationed around the class, each robot has a mounted video screen controlled by the remote student that lets the user pan around the room to see and talk with the instructor and fellow students participating in-person.
The study, published in the journal Online Learning, found that robot learning generally benefits remote students more than traditional videoconferencing, in which multiple students are displayed on a single screen.
Christine Greenhow, MSU associate professor of educational psychology and educational technology, said that instead of looking at a screen full of faces, as she does with traditional videoconferencing, she can look a robot-learner in the eye — at least digitally.
“It was such a benefit to have people individually embodied in robot form — I can look right at you and talk to you,” Greenhow said.
The technology, Greenhow added, also has implications for telecommuters working remotely and students with disabilities or who are ill.
MSU’s College of Education started using robot learning in 2015. Greenhow and Benjamin Gleason, a former MSU doctoral student who is now a faculty member at Iowa State University, studied an educational technology doctoral course in which students participated in one of three ways: in-person, by robot and by traditional videoconferencing.
Courses that combine face-to-face and online learning, called hybrid or blended learning, are widely considered the most promising approach for increasing access to higher education and students’ learning outcomes. The number of blended-learning classrooms has increased dramatically in the past decade and could eventually make up 80 percent or more of all university classes, the study notes.
With traditional videoconferencing, Greenhow said, remote students generally can’t tell the instructor is looking at them and can get turned off from joining the discussion. “These students often feel like they’re interrupting, like they’re not fully participating in the class. And as an instructor, that’s like death – I can’t have that.” 
“The main takeaway here,” Greenhow added, “is that students participating with the robots felt much more engaged and interactive with the instructor and their classmates who were on campus.”
To engage the robot from home, students just need to download free software onto their computer.
Source:  Michigan State University