Gun control increases murder rates, it would seem.
People who hate gun violence should move to a community with a high rate of gun ownership.
That’s the counterintuitive takeaway of a new analysis of murder in the United States.
John Lott’s Crime Prevention Center looked at violence in the U.S. Most murders take place in two percent of counties. More than half of counties registered zero murders. Places with high gun ownership rates tended to boast few murders. Places with high murder rates tended toward low gun ownership rates.
“It just so happens that the counties that have zero murders have by far the highest gun ownership rates,” Lott explains to The American Spectator. “The gun ownership rates in those more rural parts of the country are about 111 percent higher than the gun ownership rates in the urban areas that have the highest murder rates.”
Surely other factors, such as population density, demographics (particularly age and sex), and economics, impact murder rates. But whether local laws and customs favor or frown upon private ownership of guns looks like a clear influence, too.
The findings reinforce the thesis of Lott’s nearly 20-year-old book, More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control. Therein Lott writes that “criminals as a group tend to behave rationally — when crime becomes more difficult, less crime is committed. Higher arrest and conviction rates dramatically reduce crime. Criminals also move out of jurisdictions in which criminal deterrence increases. Yet criminals respond to more than just the actions taken by the police and the courts. Citizens can take private actions that also deter crime. Allowing citizens to carry concealed handguns reduces violent crimes, and the reductions coincide very closely with the number of concealed-handgun permits issued. Mass shootings in public places are reduced when law-abiding citizens are allowed to carry concealed handguns.”
One can reject why communities embracing gun control face elevated murder rates. But the fact of it remains more difficult to dismiss.
The words of California’s lieutenant governor put him firmly in the fewer-guns-less-crime camp.
“Hey @NRA-the people of CA have already spoken,” Gavin Newsom tweeted this week. “Loudly. We reject your $ driven agenda. We’re focused on saving lives.”
The social-media blast refers to the National Rifle Association’s legal pushback against a Golden State “assault weapons” (redundancy?) ban and prohibition of magazine clips holding more than ten rounds. The group supports a lawsuit seeking to overturn various California gun laws.
Like subsidies for higher education or health care that perversely justify themselves by their failure to rein-in costs, gun control gains popularity as a result of its ineffectiveness. The higher the number of murders, the louder the cries for gun control. Citizens in Detroit, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., face restrictive gun-control laws. Yet, their murder rates remain consistently high and gun control remains consistently popular among the denizens.
“The confusion is that they think that if they pass some gun control legislation, then they will take guns away from criminals,” Lott says of the California anti-gun activists. “In fact, the opposite is true. When you primarily disarm the most law-abiding citizens, you see increases in murder rates and the most violent crimes.”
One pernicious byproduct of a soft-on-crime approach involves the refusal to see criminals as, well, criminals. Their circumstances, an extreme manifestation of this view holds, make them as much the victim as their victims. So, rather than lock up the perpetrators, they seek a lockdown on the inanimate objects symbolically, and substantively, tethered to them. This makes the advocates of this theory feel good. But it makes real victims feel shot.
Clichés don’t kill thought, bad writers do. With that in mind, pick your bumper-sticker wisdom: guns don’t kill people, people do, when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns, if guns cause crime, then matches cause arson, etc.
Trite phrases sometimes tell a truth.
Photo credit: Aigars Mahinovs, Flickr, Creative Commons