Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Banning Guns

John Lott, author of More Guns, Less Crime and bête noir of those who want to ban firearms regardless whether or not it would actually do any good, offers a few interesting observations in the wake of Mr. Obama's call to ban semi-automatic weapons. His concluding paragraphs are especially good:
But despite Obama’s frightening image of military weapons on America’s streets, it is pretty hard to seriously argue that a new ban on “assault weapons” would reduce crime in the United States. Even research done for the Clinton administration didn’t find that the federal assault-weapons ban reduced crime.

Indeed, banning guns on the basis of how they look, and not how they operate, shouldn’t be expected to make any difference. And there are no published academic studies by economists or criminologists that find the original federal assault-weapons ban to have reduced murder or violent crime generally.

There is no evidence that the state assault-weapons bans reduced murder or violent-crime rates either. Since the federal ban expired in September 2004, murder and overall violent-crime rates have actually fallen. In 2003, the last full year before the law expired, the U.S. murder rate was 5.7 per 100,000 people. Preliminary numbers for 2011 show that the murder rate has fallen to 4.7 per 100,000 people.

In fact, murder rates fell immediately after September 2004, and they fell more in the states without assault-weapons bans than in the states with them.

Nevertheless, the fears at the time were significant. An Associated Press headline warned, “Gun shops and police officers brace for end of assault weapons ban.” It was even part of the presidential campaign that year: “Kerry blasts lapse of assault weapons ban.” An Internet search turned up more than 560 news stories in the first two weeks of September 2004 that expressed fear about ending the ban. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the fact that murder and other violent crime declined after the ban ended was hardly covered in the media.

If we finally want to deal seriously with multiple-victim public shootings, it is about time that we acknowledge a common feature of these attacks: With just a single exception, the attack in Tucson last year, every public shooting in the U.S. in which more than three people have been killed since at least 1950 has occurred in a place where citizens are not allowed to carry their own firearms. The Cinemark movie theater in Aurora, like others run by the chain around the country, displayed warning signs that [patrons were] prohibited to carry guns into the theater.
The whole column is worth reading.

Many years ago I favored gun control. I even contributed to the Bradys' organization Handgun Control Incorporated and appeared on a local tv cable show to advocate for restrictions on rapid-fire weapons. But I was gradually convinced of three things: 1) People have a right to defend themselves and their loved ones, 2) where responsible citizens are allowed to own and carry weapons crime decreases, and 3) unless guns cease to be manufactured everywhere in the world no legal measure to limit them will accomplish anything other than to insure that the right of self-defense will be eroded.

When these three facts of life came together for me it completely reoriented my thinking.

This is not to say that there aren't reasonable restrictions which would pass constitutional scrutiny (evidently, anything is constitutional nowadays) and which could theoretically be legislated. I just believe that few of them would actually work in the real world, but what they could do is put the right to self-defense on a slippery slope that would eventually result in having that right abrogated altogether.

Until the millenial kingdom arrives that's a right we should fight to keep.