Dr. Jeremy D. Blanks, from the Board of Directors of Doctors for Sensible Gun Laws, examines the difficult and often-posed question of whether tightening controls on private firearm ownership actually has any measurable effect on crime rates, whether it be an increase or a decrease.
This article dates from August 14, 2000.
by Jeremy D. Blanks, Ph.D.
When one asks a gun control supporter why they support additional gun laws they will undeniably answer that they do so to stop violence, crime, and to “save the children.” The same thing can be said for gun control groups like Handgun Control, Inc. and the Violence Policy Center. Obviously, these are positive goals, which are shared by this author and essentially every law-abiding citizen in the United States. However, the problem with this position by gun control supporters is that there is no evidence to show that any of their proposed gun control laws have ever reduced crime or violence. Hence, the question must be asked; does gun control equal crime control?
A review of the areas in the U.S. with the most restrictive firearm laws, including such areas as Washington, D.C., Chicago, IL, New York, NY, and the state of California, shows that these areas have some of the highest crime and especially violent crime rates in the U.S. The crime rates in all of these areas exceed the national average, and they all enforce stringent restrictions on firearm ownership that includes licensing and registration schemes, various taxes, testing, and even bans on firearms. In essence, these areas have become a gun control supporters Utopia. Yet, even with all of these gun laws and the high praise from gun control groups like Handgun Control, Inc., crime and particularly violent crime has continued to be a serious problem.
The issue of continued high crime in the aforementioned areas is especially disconcerting when one compares the crime rates in these gun control Utopias to the crime rates in areas that have not gone the route of extreme gun control. In almost all cases, the areas in the U.S. with the fewest gun control laws and also the highest gun ownership rates also have the lowest crime levels. One of the most interesting comparisons is that of Washington, D.C. with its gun bans since the 1970s and the D.C. suburbs in Virginia, which has very little gun control. Even though gun ownership is at a high rate and there are few gun control laws in the Virginia suburbs of D.C., just across the state line where gun ownership is almost non-existent and gun control has reached extreme levels the crime rate is many multiples higher. Some try to turn this argument around in an attempt to blame the crime problems in Washington, D.C. on weak gun laws in Virginia, but the reality is that Virginia with all of its guns and few laws does not have the crime problem that plagues Washington, D.C. and its gun bans. If guns are the problem, then why is it that those areas with the most guns have the lowest crime levels?
If one believes that gun control lowers crime and violence and thus guns are responsible, then these aforementioned facts are counterintuitive to the logic of gun control. This is especially true of the 31 states that have enacted concealed carry laws. Even though groups like Handgun Control, Inc. continually attacked such measures in saying that they will lead to higher crime, “blood on our streets,” and “wild west shootouts,” just the opposite has occurred. Those states that have enacted concealed carry measures have seen their crime rates immediately fall and continue to do so at rates in most cases faster than the national average. One of the best examples is Florida. Prior to their enactment of concealed carry laws in the late 1980s, the crime rate in Florida was higher than the national average. However, following the enactment of the concealed carry law their crime immediately began to drop and has continued to do so to this day. In fact, today the crime levels in Florida are considerably lower than the national average. Additionally, the U.S. state with the lowest crime rate, Vermont, also happens to be the state with the fewest gun control laws – and they allow all law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons. The simple fact is that those areas in the U.S. with the fewest gun restrictions and highest gun ownership rates also have the lowest crime rates.
Even a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which is well known for its anti-gun bias, reported that the 1994 Brady Law has not had a discernable impact on homicide or suicide rates. The results from this study are completely counter to claims by gun control groups, like Handgun Control, Inc., which have repeatedly claimed that such laws have saved thousands of lives. This aforementioned study also pointed out that crime has been falling for a decade now and it began to fall over three years prior to the passage of the Brady Law. Furthermore, there was no increase in the rate of crime reduction after passage of the Brady Law. In essence, the Brady Law has done nothing to lower crime or violence. Again, this is a continuation of mounting evidence that gun control schemes that are pushed by the anti-gun movement have no relation to crime or violence prevention.
Based on the crime rates in areas with the most and fewest gun control laws, one could logically argue that gun control schemes contribute to higher crime rates. There is much evidence to support this hypothesis and similar results can be found in international examples. Just recently, the violent crime levels in England have risen during the past year by more than 15%. These results represent a continuation of crime problems in England that have been encountered since their gun bans took affect in the mid 1990s. The home invasion, burglary, robbery, and a wide range of other crime rates in England now exceed that of the U.S. Only murder and rape remain higher in the U.S., with the difference now being relatively minor and the gap is steadily closing. Even staunchly anti-gun journalist Dan Rather of CBS called England “one the most violent urban societies in the Western world.” As many people are aware, England has long been an example cited by gun control supporters as having good gun control laws and a role model for the U.S.
Having gone through the facts around crime and gun control, one can only come to the conclusion that gun control does not equal crime control in any regard. In fact, there is significant evidence that gun control can and more than likely already has contributed to increased crime levels in areas that enacted measures such as licensing, registration, various bans, and other laws meant to harass, discourage, and prevent law abiding citizens from owning a firearm.
If the above is true, and it certainly is based on the facts, then one must ask why gun control supporters believe that gun control equals crime control?
One of the more obvious reasons is that from a naive standpoint, one could see how a gun control law might reduce crime. However, to do so one would have to dismiss the complexity of crime and especially that which is related to drug and alcohol abuse. Furthermore, one would have to place blame on an inanimate object, instead of the individual that carries out a crime. Such a simplistic view would also have to make the ludicrous assumption that criminals will give up their already illegal guns.
Another motivation that is common is the “feel good” factor. I have encountered many gun control supporters that have their hearts in the right place. Unfortunately, they either don’t understand the reasons behind crime, they do not want to face the true causes of crime, or they feel helpless in their ability to respond. Therefore, they support unsophisticated gun control laws that have nothing to do with the criminals, but are instead focused on gun ownership, which few such gun control supporters can understand or comprehend. In doing so, they feel good about themselves and their one-dimensional accomplishments, but the reality is that such measures do not reduce crime and in fact probably causes an increase.
The last reason is possibly the most concerning for firearm and self-defense supporters. There is a significant group of gun control supporters that have the only goal of banning all private ownership of firearms. This final rationale is rooted in the belief that the average U.S. citizen cannot be trusted on a variety of issues and especially gun ownership. Furthermore, this group does not believe the average citizen is of sufficient intelligence to be responsible for himself or herself. Thus, this final faction believes that only the government and a few select elitists of certain political influence should have a right to self-defense.
In the end, there is really only one approach that has been found to significantly reduce crime and violence in the U.S. That method is based on enforcing our current laws against the violent felons that illegally possess firearms. It is those individuals, who have shown themselves incapable of responsibly owning a firearm, which should be the focus. Efforts in a number of U.S. cities and states have already begun using this tactic and the crime levels have immediately begun to fall. If one is truly interested in a reduction in violence and crime, then logic demands that our efforts be focused on those that commit the crimes.
About the Author:
Dr. Blanks is a Senior Research Scientist with the leading R&D company in the world. In the past, Dr. Blanks was supportive of many of the current proposals offered by gun control groups. However, through research into the effectiveness of such measures and the value of firearm ownership in the prevention of millions of crimes each year, Dr. Blanks is now an advocate for self defense and firearm ownership rights. He is a Board member of Doctor’s for Sensible Gun Laws. Dr. Blanks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.