There are a lot of laws, regulations, etc. out there that seem to imply without stating that they are effective, with the argument being that the legislature, regulatory agency, or other authority would not pass regulations that they did not believe were effective. For example:

  • Passing a law requiring a background check before purchasing a firearm implies that whoever passed the law believed that requiring background checks before purchasing firearms reduces violence.
  • The passage of regulations requiring private medical information to be encrypted implies that whoever enacted the regulations believed that encrypting medical information reduces the likelihood or impact of a breach of medical information.
  • The passage of laws requiring the publication of the names and home addresses of people convicted of sexual crimes implies that those who passed those laws believed that publicizing the names and addresses of people convicted of sexual crimes reduces the occurrence of sexual crimes or otherwise contributes meaningfully to public safety.

Do we accept claims such as these as establishing notable claims?

An example question I might ask on the main site might be:

Section 11.2 of Title 87 of the Combined Ruritanian Firearms Safety Act provides that no person may carry a firearm within 100 meters of a public school without written permission from the school superintendent. Does banning people from carrying firearms within 100 meters of public schools without superintendent permission actually prevent injuries and/or deaths or is this just one of those paternalizing laws that don't actually accomplish anything?

In response to Joe W, I am not talking about a claim that laws are 100% effective, but that they are effective in some way. For example, with my firearm carrying example above, an answer might cite research showing that 20% fewer children die in school shootings in towns that ban people from carrying firearms within 100 meters of public schools without superintendent permission. Alternately, a publication showing that the existence of such firearms laws had no effect on the number of adults and/or children killed or injured might be used to debunk the claim.

In general, my thought here stems from the general observation that when deciding on major action to take, people generally make choices that they believe to be most effective given their understanding of the situation. They may be wrong or even extremely wrong (i.e. people doing stupid things), but they believe in good faith at the time that they do them that they are the right things. My question is whether that good faith belief, when associated with positive action taken by a notable public official or public body, is enough to constitute a claim by that official or body.

3 Answers 3


No, but it can lead to explicit claims.

If a regulation exists, it has been enacted at some point. During that process, someone will likely have made a claim as to what it will achieve. This claim would be a public statement by an influential person, which means it meets this site's notability requirements.

By finding out the stated purpose of a piece of legislation, you also lower the risk of misinterpreting it. It may be safe to assume that all legislation is meant to be effective but that does not tell you what it is meant to be effective at. Perhaps medical records were not encrypted to lower the impact of data breaches but to combat a black market of unlicensed physicians.


I am not talking about a claim that laws are 100% effective, but that they are effective in some way.

There are plenty of laws that are on the books but not applied or seldom applied. Existence of a law is not a claim of effectiveness. Also, "in some way" is too vague to be a valid question here, on Skeptics, in my opinion.

BTW, the term "effectiveness" is used somewhat differently in the legal field ("legal effectiveness usually means enforcing the law"), so there's that layer of confusion too. I.e. would be effective if [perfectly] applied, or is effective as applied [somewhere], subject to prosecutorial discretion etc.? (In at least one US case, regulatory agency decisions to not enforce their own regulations were held to be not subject to judicial review. So that is somewhat similar to prosecutorial discretion.)

Also, if this answer on P.SE is to be believed, some laws are passed without effective remedy/punishment by design.


I would say no it doesn't support a claim that the regulation/law is effective.

Requiring background checks before purchasing a gun doesn't reduce violence as that can and still does happen even if the person purchasing it doesn't pass the background check. Also there is nothing stopping someone who can pass a background check from doing violence.

Encryption is only as good as the encryption method and if someone encrypts something with a bad/broken method or leaves the decryption keys easily accessible the encryption is worthless.

Even if you know the names and addresses of those people it doesn't mean that they still can't commit crimes again as you still won't know about them just by looking at them. Just because someone lives in one area doesn't mean they can't travel to other areas.

Regulation/laws are not designed to be 100% foolproof methods of solving a problem but designed to help with it.

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