The media is filled with stories intended to convince us that we need more
gun laws, but one critical fact is being ignored. Gun control doesn't work and
the evidence is undeniable. During the twentieth century, three major cities in
the United States enacted extremely tough gun laws. New York, Washington and
Chicago gradually tightened their laws to the point that for all practical
purposes, guns were outlawed.
These laws were rigorously enforced. Homeowners and shopkeepers who kept guns
for defense were heavily fined when police found their illicit weapons. Only
celebrities, politicians and political contributors were able to obtain permits
to own weapons legally. Even allowing for the fact that guns could still be
smuggled in from surrounding areas, one could reasonably assume that these laws
had at least a small effect on reducing crime.
How much was crime reduced? It wasn't. In fact, crime of all types,
especially gun crimes, increased dramatically each time a new law was passed.
Only the boom economy of the 1990's combined with locking up a greater
percentage of convicted criminals have had a positive effect in recent years.
The British experience with gun control is similar. As gun laws were
gradually tightened, crime went up. British newspapers say that large numbers of
high quality weapons are being smuggled in from Eastern Europe to meet the
demand and criminals are better armed than at any time in the past. Analysts now
say that the overall crime rate in Britain is roughly similar to the U.S. and
still rising, while crime here is falling despite the annual purchase of
millions of new guns by law abiding citizens.
Australia has not benefited from its expensive and divisive gun confiscation.
Some observers say that crime has gone up. Canada's new gun registry is mired in
bureaucratic inefficiency and bedeviled by civil disobedience. Several provinces
are battling the federal government over the issue in the Supreme Court.
The dismal failure of gun control laws is quite logically explained by
numerous scholars who have researched the question, including John Lott, Gary
Kleck, Don Kates and David Kopel. They say that you can never effectively keep
guns out of the hands of criminals, because it takes so few guns to meet their
needs. That need will always be met by black markets and smuggling.
To make matters worse, gun control efforts interfere with self-defense by law
abiding citizens, making life easier for the crooks. Even if very strict laws do
keep some guns away from lawbreakers, they will gladly substitute cheaper
weapons against the now disarmed citizenry, decreasing their cost of doing
Minor gun control laws, such as those that require guns to be stored in a way
that inhibits quick access, probably have a small negative effect. Since guns
are used to prevent crime much more often than they are used to commit crime,
anything that reduces access by lawful citizens will tip the balance towards
The gun control lobby makes frequent use of statistics which simply tell us
that guns are dangerous. We knew that already. What we really want to know is
how well the various proposed gun control laws would work, but research
predicting success for any likely gun law is nonexistent.
Aren't people curious about the lack of evidence to support new laws? Why is
the failure of past gun laws ignored while more of the same type is so
passionately promoted? There are no statistics or scholarly essays to explain
the continued push for more laws, but we can imagine some possibilities.
Politicians love the issue, because they can engage in their favorite sport
of grandstanding while appearing sympathetic to public concerns about crime.
Highly politicized police chiefs know that defenseless, unarmed citizens are
more likely support larger law enforcement budgets and expanded police powers.
Soft hearted individuals don't like to blame violence on violent people. It
is much easier to blame inanimate objects.
Many journalists support more gun laws because they don't personally know any
responsible gun owners. In their urban world, only cops and criminals appear to
have guns. This effects the way that gun stories are covered, so people who rely
on the media for their information don't know that guns in civilian hands reduce
The media bias against guns by the national television networks was
impressively documented in a study by the Media Research Center released in
January. They found news stories advocating more gun control outnumbered those
advocating less gun control by a 10 to 1 ratio.
David Kopel pointed out an interesting fact in the April 17th issue of
National Review. He notes that the gun control lobby does not care when the
facts don't match their ideology. They simply lie, a fact that is obvious to
anyone with enough ambition to check the sources of their propaganda statements.
Unfortunately, many people accept those false factoids at face value
These are a few possible explanations for this strange state of affairs, but
in the final analysis it might be due to simple intellectual laziness. It is
easy to accept the seductive promise of gun control. It takes a little more
effort to understand the facts.
Great American Gun Debate: Essays on Firearms & Violence by Don B. Kates,
Killings Rise as 3m Guns Flood Britain London Times
All the Way Down the Slippery Slope: Gun Prohibition in England by David B.
Kopel and Joseph E. Olson
More Guns, Less Crime by John R. Lott, Jr.
The Value of Civilian Handgun Possession as a Deterrent to Crime or a Defense
Against Crime by Don B. Kates, Jr.
Crime and Justice in the United States and in England and Wales by Patrick A.
Langan and David P. Farrington
Are Gun Control Laws Discriminatory? by Markus Funk
Dr. Michael S. Brown is an optometrist in Vancouver, WA who moderates a
large email list for discussion of gun issues in Washington State. You can reach
the rest of his archive here.
He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org