So we’ve dispelled the silly notion that more guns = less crime. Clearly, the more “law abiding citizens” we have carrying guns around, the more opportunities there are for that person to use their gun in anger. But what about gun control? Does restricting the accessibility of guns do anything to reduce these tragedies? The results seem to depend on the nature of the particular law in question, but once again, we see a pattern where less guns = less crime. Common sense gun legislation seems to have a substantial impact:
A) The Center for American Progress has found “a clear link between high levels of gun violence and weak state gun laws.” (Nicas & Palazzolo, 2013)
B) The editors at USA Today note that “California has had expanded checks for all guns since 1990 and has cut its firearm mortality rate almost in half, according to one 2012 study done for the Brady Campaign. A wide array of evidence shows that states with more guns have more gun deaths and more police officers killed on duty. States with tighter gun laws have fewer gun-related deaths. (USA Today, 10-5-2015)
C) Data shows that in states where gun ownership is prohibited by men who have received a domestic violence restraining order, gun-caused homicides of intimate female partners have been reduced by 25%. (Shermer, 2013)
D) From 2009 to 2013, 60% of guns recovered in crimes in Chicago were originally purchased in states with fewer restrictions on gun ownership, according to police. (Madhani, 2015) This suggests that most of the guns used in crime are a result of lax gun laws. A different report by Mayors Against Illegal Guns turned up similar results, showing that in 2009 states with lax gun laws exported guns involved in crimes at significantly higher rates than states with strict regulations. Ten states with lax gun laws supplied 49% of the 43,000 guns linked to U.S. crime scenes. (Time, Oct. 11, 2010, p. 15)
E) In the 18 states that have required all handgun sales to be run through various state and federal databases, 46% fewer women are shot to death by intimate partners, according to Elizabeth Avore, legal director for Everytown for Gun Safety. (Welch, 2016)
F) In the 12 states that have enacted laws punishing gun owners who leave their firearms accessible to kids, accidental shooting deaths of children under 15 have dropped by an average of 23%. (Moninger, 2013)
G) Rodrigo Guerrero Velasco, who as mayor was able to reduce violence in his hometown of Cali, Columbia, says that they “found that close to 80 percent of homicides were carried out with firearms.” After instituting a plan to restrict firearm permits (especially around alcohol), they found that “when both alcohol sales (after 2 A.M.) and firearms permits were restricted, there was a 35 percent reduction in homicides versus days when neither were in force. The reduction was 14 percent when firearms alone were restricted.” Keep in mind that this had nothing to do with actually taking guns away, and it didn’t lower the number of guns in the community by a single weapon. People could stilly carry a firearm on those days if they chose to, they just couldn’t do it legally. The fact that this simple measure resulted in 14% less murders, and that combined with less alcohol the reduction was 35%, sheds light on the reality of gun carry laws in our own country. It obliterates the myth that only criminals commit gun crime, since these laws only affected “law abiding” gun carriers. It’s especially relevant in regards to the handful of mentally challenged states that have decided it’s a good idea to let people tote their guns around to bars. Another town in Columbia that mimicked this legislation saw a similar reduction in murder rates when guns were restricted. (Guerrero-Velasco, 2015)
H) State by state data shows a consistent pattern of more gun crimes in states with weaker gun laws. (Pearlstein, 2016)
I) A 2017 study in Law & Contemporary Problems estimated that in Connecticut every 10 to 20 gun cizures prevented one suiside. (Gregory et al., 2018)
As Joanna Pearlstein sums it up: “It’s proven: Laws help, as evidenced by lower rates of gun deaths in states with stricter firearm laws. …in those with weak restrictions, more people per capita die by gunshot. (ibid)
Normally our organization is not a big supporter of legislation, because most laws are not very well thought out and typically create as many problems as they hope to prevent. The libertarian in me would prefer to see gun ownership and gun carry rates go down on their own as a result of well-informed citizens making a personal choice. But to the extent that these laws impede the flow of guns or make them less accessible, they do seem to have a noticeable effect on reducing crime, which is not the least bit surprising.
We see this issue as being very similar to the problem of suicide. Simple measures to prevent suicide, such as installing nets under the Golden Gate Bridge or removing potentially deadly medications from the home, can actually cut suicide rates. Why? Because it makes the act just a little harder, and this added degree of difficulty is enough to thwart many attempts. Most suicides are rather impulsive decisions. Even though a person may be chronically depressed, their mood still ebbs and flows up and down from day to day and even throughout the day. So when their first plan is thwarted, this often buys enough time for their mood to swing back out of complete despair. People don’t just go right back out and search for another way to kill themselves. Raise the bar of difficulty or thwart their first attempt, and you can prevent many suicides.
Guns present a similar type of problem. Most gun crimes are crimes of impulse and/or passion. The harder you make it for someone to access a gun, the more likely it is for these moods of anger and passion to pass by without incident. The more readily accessible you make guns, the more of these deadly events you have. Guns simply make it too easy for a moment of anger, fear or despair to become something much more. They turn arguments and misunderstandings into killings. Anything that restricts the accessibility of guns is going to wipe these murders off the books.