Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Gun Control?

Based on some comments I received from the lovely Coffee Bean and Tom, I decided to reprint something I wrote after the tragic Virginia Tech shootings - on my defunct 'political' website, Editorial Bear.

You can read the original here...

Gun control is fundamentally flawed. Out of the millions of guns floating around America, a significant number (15% apparently) are unregistered and illegal. These are the guns floating around in the hands of criminals. This minority of guns causes the majority of crimes and banning the 85% of registered weapons will do nothing to curb the circulation of illegal firearms.

In fact, statistics show gun control can have a negative impact on crime figures.
  • New Jersey adopted what sponsors described as "the most stringent gun law" in the nation in 1966; two years later, the murder rate was up 46 percent and the reported robbery rate had nearly doubled.
  • In 1968, Hawaii imposed a series of increasingly harsh measures and its murder rate, then a low 2.4 per 100,000 per year, tripled to 7.2 by 1977.
  • In 1976, Washington, D.C., enacted one of the most restrictive gun control laws in the nation. Since then, the city's murder rate has risen 134 percent while the national murder rate has dropped 2 %.
  • Over 50% of American households own guns, despite government statistics showing the number is approximately 35%, because guns not listed on any government roll were not counted during the gathering of data. [9]
  • Evanston, Ill., a Chicago suburb of 75,000 residents, became the largest town to ban handgun ownership in September 1982 but experienced no decline in violent crime.
  • Among the 15 states with the highest homicide rates, 10 have restrictive or very restrictive gun laws.
  • 20 percent of U.S. homicides occur in four cities with just 6 percent of the population - New York, Chicago, Detroit and Washington, D.C. - and each has a virtual prohibition on private handguns.[8]
  • UK banned private ownership of all handguns in 1997. Since 1998 the number of people injured by firearms in England and Wales has more than doubled, despite massive increase in number of police personnel.[9]
  • Violent crime accelerated in Jamaica after handguns were banned.
The problem is in America itself. Despite a century of advancement, the country is still very much like the Wild West. Guns are everywhere. Effective gun control, like we've got in the UK, would take decades to really work.

Statistics suggest that 9 children under the age of 19 die from gunshots every single day in the United States. If private gun ownership was banned, would that figure be reduced?

But more importantly, would the American right wing be willing to sacrifice the "security" of private gun ownership to prevent these deaths?

In a country in which most states still allow people to carry concealed weapons (at least the cowboys had 'em on show) I think the answer to that question is a resounding no.


The Chemist said...

I'm not pro-gun control, and I'm not exactly pro-gun either. With me, it's more about the constitutional right to overthrow an evil dictator and less about putting a bullet in a mugger with a handgun ill-suited for deposing tyrants.

That said, the constitution says what it says, and I live in Atlanta where guns can now be taken everywhere with a concealed carry permit. I'm not too worried, people who have the permits aren't going to kill anyone who hasn't slept with their wife or stolen their stereo.

The statistics you cite though, tsk, tsk, naughty, naughty. You should know statistics about whether guns prevent crime are easily skewed either way. Methodology is the hard part. How do you determine that the presence of guns is a causal factor? Do you ask potential criminals if they potentially would have committed a crime if the potential victim potentially had a concealed weapon?

I'm not saying it's not true, I'm just saying the stats don't mean much. A rise in crime could be caused by tons of other factors.

Tom said...

I'll note that that "9 children under the age of 19" number is quite flawed. (The original number includes 19 year olds, from what I can tell.) I don't think it's fair to consider 18 and 19 year-olds (old enough to vote) to be children.

When I query the CDC's website for children 17 and under, the rate drops to 4.08 a day. If we only consider 15 and under, the number drops further to 1.78. (All numbers from 2005.)

And I'm not sure that figure would be reduced by banning firearms. At least, in all the cases you mentioned, murders seem to have gone up when guns were banned. So a question is, by banning guns, would we be lowering or raising that tragic number?