Gun bans lead to increase in violent crime

John Lott [Senior Research Scientist at the University of Maryland and author of Freedomnomics]: "The District of Columbia's request for cert made a simple argument: Whatever one thinks of the Second Amendment, banning handguns is a "reasonable regulation" to protect public safety. Indeed, most of the city's brief focused on public safety arguments. The problem for the city is that anyone who can look up the crime numbers will see that D.C.'s murder and violent crime rates went up, not down, after the ban.

Prior to the ban DC's murder rate was falling. After the ban, DC's murder rate rose, and only once fell below what it was in 1976.

But it is not just DC that has experienced increases in murder and violent crime after guns are banned. While DC points to Chicago's ban to justify its own, Chicago also experienced an increase after its ban in 1982.

Taking a page from recent Supreme Court cases, D.C. points to gun bans in other countries as evidence that others think that gun bans are desirable. But the experience in other countries, even island nations that have gone so far as banning guns and where borders are easy to monitor, should give D.C. and its supporters some pause. Not only didn't violent crime and homicide decline as promised, but they actually increased.

D.C.'s brief specifically points to Great Britain's handgun ban in January 1997. But the number of deaths and injuries from gun crime in England and Wales increased 340 percent in the seven years from 1998 to 2005. The rates of serious violent crime, armed robberies, rapes and homicide have also soared. Similar experiences have been seen with other bans, such as those in Ireland and Jamaica.

What is also interesting is how the Supreme Court has rewritten the question posed by DC. DC originally asked that the question be: "Whether the Second Amendment forbids the District of Columbia from banning private possession of handguns while allowing possession of rifles and shotguns." The new question is: "Whether the following provisions — D.C. Code secs. 7-2502.02(a)(4), 22-4504(a), and 7-2507.02 — violate the Second Amendment rights of individuals who are not affiliated with any state-regulated militia, but who wish to keep handguns and other firearms for private use in their homes?"

What is most striking about this revised question is that the court appears to be questioning the city's claim that the ban comes "nowhere close to disarmament of residents. The District's overwhelming interest in reducing death and injury caused by handguns outweighs respondent's asserted need . . . ." DC adds that they don't believe that the regulations that lock up and require the disassembling of guns does not "prevent the use of a lawful firearm in self-defense." Of course, this is highly debatable because under DC law as soon as a rifle or shotgun is made operational it becomes illegal.

But taking DC claims as accurate, locked guns are simply not as readily accessible for defensive gun uses. In the U.S., states that require guns be locked up and unloaded face a 5 percent increase in murder and a 12 percent increase in rapes. Criminals are more likely to attack people in their homes and those attacks are more likely to be successful.

Since potentially armed victims deter criminals, storing a gun locked and unloaded actually encourages increased crime. If the phrase "keep handguns and other firearms for private use in their homes" was chosen for a purpose, it might be that gun lock laws raise their own problems that limit people's ability to use guns for defense."

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