This paper will show that gun control laws in the United States have had no significant effects on reducing crime. Although the anti-gun lobby supposes that passing more stringent laws will reduce the level of crime it will be shown that this just places additional hardships on the law abiding citizens of the United States. The work of various studies and reports from the United States government and private foundations will be the ainstay supporting concepts of this paper.
There are 20,000 plus nationwide gun control laws that are currently in force in the United States and for a large part they have had no effect in reducing crime. The last big federal crime bill, the Brady Law, has also not been at all effective. I believe that the laws already in existence need to be better enforced and that there should be fewer new laws. The laws already on the books are hampering the law abiding citizen, and not addressing the criminals who break the laws. Politicians parade the fact that these sets of laws would give the police the tools they need and the U.S. would become as safe as it ever was. If this was indeed the case then why have crimes involving firearms increased every year since then? (Moorhouse, 2006) Certainly the laws that have been enacted over the last 45 years, starting with the Gun Control Act of 1968, would have filled in any holes in the original legislation. In some parts of the country it is nearly impossible to obtain a handgun, and in some places handguns are prohibited altogether.
Take for instance Washington, D.C. which in 1976 instituted some of the nation strictest gun laws. During the next 25 years they were at the top of the list for cities with the highest homicide rate per 100,000 people. Homicides committed with a firearm, and the murder rate, actually increased by 51% during that time; meanwhile the national rate of murders in the rest of the United States committed by firearms dropped by 36% (“Crime in the,” 2002). As criminologist, Dr. Gary Kleck, from Florida State University, told the National Research Council that he started his study of gun laws as a strong supporter of them but in the end changed his view to “beyond even the skeptic position.” Dr. Klecks evidence points the fact that “general gun availability does not measurably increase rates of homicide, suicide, robbery, assault, rape, or burglary in the U.S.” (Don B. Kates, Jr, 1991).
Even President Carter set out to prove that more gun laws were needed in the United States and through a Justice Department grant hired Professor James Wright of Auckland University to study gun control laws and their effectiveness. Professor Wright found that waiting periods, background checks, and other gun control laws were not effective in reducing violent crime (David Mitchell, 1985). The Journal of the American Medical Association also found that the Brady Law failed to reduce the number of homicides committed with a firearm. In August 2000 the Journal found that the states with waiting periods and background checks did “not [experience] reductions in homicide rates or overall suicide rates.” (Jens Ludwig & Philip J. Cook, 2000). These and many other studies point to the fact that there are no distinguishable positive effects from gun control laws in the United States at either a federal or state level.
There have been various studies conducted with convicted criminals showing that they are more concerned with an armed public at large and how this has affected their choices when committing crimes. In a poll conducted by the U.S., Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice of incarcerated criminals, 66% stated that “a criminal is not going to mess around with a victim he knows is armed with a gun” and 74% stated that “one reason burglars avoid houses when people are at home is that they fear being shot during the crime” (“The armed criminal,” 1985). In 1982 in the city of Kennesaw, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta, the city council passed a law that required the head of each household to keep at least one firearm in the house. As a result the burglary rate dropped an impressive 89% and ten years later in 1991 the burglary rate was still 72% lower than it had been in 1981 (Gary Kleck, 1991). The Lott-Mustard Study found that allowing citizens to carry concealed guns deterred violent crimes, without increasing accidental deaths (John R. Lott, 1996). The data showed that approximately 1,500 murders could have been avoided yearly.
The data also suggests that rapes would decline by over 4,000, robberies by over 11,000, and assault by over 60,000. Another study by Professor Gary Kleck, University of Florida, found that civilians alone use firearms between 1.5 million to 2 million times per year to thwart personal crimes and protect themselves and loved ones (Gary Kleck, 1991). His study also found that very few of these incidents resulted in death or resulted in injury. It would appear that most criminals either take flight or acquiesce when confronted by a citizen with a firearm. These studies and countless more show that an armed citizenry is a deterrent and can protect themselves from violent criminals. Further, a look at gun control in other countries shows that their restrictive laws have actually caused an increase in crime. In great Britain the crime rate was already below the rates in the United States, however, after enacting a draconian gun ban, handgun crime in the United Kingdom rose by 40% in 1997 (“Handgun crime ‘up’,” 2001).
The Reuters News Agency stated that you are more likely to be robbed in England than the United States. “The rate of robbery is now 1.4 times higher in England and Wales than in the United States, and the British burglary rate is nearly double America’s” (“Crime and justice,” 1998). Canada is another country that has a similar culture to the United States and when they enacted restrictive gun laws in 1991 and 1995 they found that their citizens were not any safer. “The contrast between the criminal violence rates in the United States and in Canada is dramatic,” says Canadian criminologist Gary Mauser in 2003. “Over the past decade, the rate of violent crime in Canada has increased while in the United States the violent crime rate has plummeted.” (Gary Mauser, 2003).
The list of countries goes on, from Japan to Australia and from France to Denmark, all industrialized nations that enacted strict gun controls in hopes of curbing crime. One of the most widely held arguments for gun control is that ‘Semiautomatic weapons aren’t needed to hunt’. Technically speaking, guns aren’t needed for hunting at all. Hunting could be accomplished through the use of bows and arrows, blow darts, spears, and knives. Almost all hunting rifles are semi-automatic these days anyway, except in the case of black powder muzzle loaders. Even rifles that are considered Curio and Relics by the BATF (Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms) are almost all semi-automatic. Hunting is not the only type of sport shooting people practice, as marksmanship competitions are more popular than ever, and they use semi-automatic rifles and pistols almost exclusively.
Part of the problem is that mainstream media and anti-gun activists use the terms automatic and semi-automatic interchangeably. They are not the same and most laws take this into account. It is the anti-gun activists way of getting the unknowing public to side with them. In 1934 the NFA (National Firearms Act) severely restricted the ownership of automatic weapons, along with destructive devices, short barreled rifles, short barreled shotguns, and silencers.
Another argument anti-gun activists like to use is that ‘Guns are designed to kill’. Of course they are, just as cars are designed to transport you. If guns could not kill then what would be the point of using them to hunt, or for that matter, self-protection, and in the case of law officers the protection of themselves or others? This is another favorite argument in support of gun control, and when all else fails, people who want to restrict the ownership of firearms fall back on this. Poison is designed to kill, an electric chair is designed to kill, and bombs are designed to kill. A gun is designed to launch a single projectile (or multiple projectiles in the case of scatterguns/ shotguns) downrange at a specified target. It is up to the user as to how they use the device.
A vehicle was not designed to kill but kills far more people than guns do every year. Again, it is up the operator to decide how they are going to use the vehicle. The anti-gun movements answer to crime; especially to any kind dealing with firearms is more laws, regulations, and restrictions. Yet, with all these new laws, the majority of which have been created since 1968, we have had more and more illegal uses of firearms than ever before. Do gun laws reduce crime? I challenge you to decide for yourself, and, if you find like me, that the laws in existence need to be better enforced and new laws fewer in number and less restrictive to law abiding citizens, then I urge you to join a local or national organization to defend your rights.
Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. (1998). Crime and justice in the United States and in England and Wales. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice. (1985). The armed criminal in America: A survey of incarcerated felons.
Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing. Handgun crime ‘up’ despite ban. (2001, July 16). BBC News Online . Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/low/english/uk/newsid_1440000/1440764.stm Kates, D. B. Jr. (1991, June). Scholars’ ignorant bias causes anti-gun sentiments. Handguns, 12-13. Kleck, G. (1991). Point blank: Guns and violence in America . Piscataway, New Jersey: Aldine Transaction. Kleck, G., and Patterson, E. B. (1993) “The Impact of Gun Control and Gun Ownership Levels on Violence Rates.” Journal of Quantitative Criminology 9: 249–87. Lott, J. R. (1996). Crime, deterrence, and right-to-carry concealed handguns. (Master’s thesis, University of Chicago ). Ludwig, J, & Cook, P. J. (2000). Homicide and suicide rates associated with implementation of the Brady handgun violence prevention act. Journal of the American Medical Association, 284(5), Mauser, G. (2003). The failed experiment: Gun control and public safety in Canada, Australia, England and Wales. Public Policy Sources, Retrieved from http://www.fraserinstitute.org/shared/readmore.asp?sNav=pb&id=604 Moorhouse, J. C. (2006). Does gun control reduce crime or does crime increase gun control?. CATO Journal, 26(1), 103-124. Retrieved from http://ehis.ebscohost.com.proxy.cecybrary.com/eds/[email protected]&vid=6&hid=103&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmUmc2NvcGU9c2l0ZQ==
Uniform Crime Reports, Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2002). Crime in the United States. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing