January 9, 2013

Chicago's 500th Failure of Gun Control

Hatched by Sachi

Since the elementary-school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, anti-gun politicians have seized the opportunity and again started proposing new and increasingly draconian gun-grabbing laws.

But strangely, a city which had banned handguns more than thirty years ago now suffers the worst homicide rate in the country. How can that be?

The City of Chicago, also known as the Windy City (possibly because it's Barack Obama's stomping ground -- well, among other reasons), boasted more than 500 homicides last year. Its high crime rates are infamous, with a homicide rate of 19.4 per 100,000 -- about four times the national average of 4.8.

Funnily enough, the entire state of Illinois has some of the strictist gun-control laws in America. More specifically, Chicago completely banned handguns in 1982. In March 2010, in the Chicago Tribune, Steve Chapman wrote about the failure of that law:

When Chicago passed a ban on handgun ownership in 1982, it was part of a trend. Washington, D.C., had done it in 1976, and a few Chicago suburbs took up the cause in the following years. They all expected to reduce the number of guns and thus curtail bloodshed.

Neither happened: The strict gun laws curtailed no bloodhsed; in fact, precisely the opposite:

In the years following its ban, Washington did not generate a decline in gun murders. In fact, the number of killings rose by 156 percent -- at a time when murders nationally increased by just 32 percent. For a while, the city vied regularly for the title of murder capital of America.

Chicago followed a similar course. In the decade after it outlawed handguns, murders jumped by 41 percent, compared with an 18 percent rise in the entire United States.

As Chicago banned handguns, other cities and states started to adopt "shall-issue concealed-carry permit" laws (shall-issue CCW); such laws required state officials to grant concealed-carry permits to anyone who applied, excepting only those specifically excluded, such as felons, the mentally deranged, habitual drunkards and drug addicts, and those persons already under restraining orders for violent activity. As of now, including states with no restrictions on gun ownership at all, 41 states allow law abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons.

While the gun-banning District of Columbia and City of Chicago sufferred skyrocketing crime rates, the United States as a whole experienced a very significant decline.

Both DC's and Chicago's handgun bans were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court: District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008 and McDonald v. Chicago in 2010. But constitutionality aside, Steve Chapman thinks the Chicago law was doomed from the beggining:

Maybe that's because there were so many flaws in the basic idea. Or maybe it was because strict gun control makes even less sense at the municipal level than it does on a broader scale. At any rate, the policy turned out to be a comprehensive dud....

If we were starting out in a country with zero guns, it might be possible to keep such weapons away from bad guys. But that's not this country, which has more than 200 million firearms in private hands and a large, perpetual supply of legal handguns.

Only a tiny percentage of those weapons has to be diverted to the underground trade for crooks to acquire all the firepower they need. While gun bans greatly impede the law-abiding, they pose only a trivial inconvenience to the lawless.

This is especially true at the local level. Banning guns from one city makes about as much sense as banning them on one block. [Emphasis added -- Sachi]

True enough. But the obvious question remains, if it doesn't work at the local level, why would it work if we banned guns nationwide? The same logic applies: Since we cannot ban guns from all over the world -- nor can we prevent people from making guns -- how can we stop smugglers and clandestine manufacturers from getting guns to criminals, who need them vitally and will therefore pay whatever it takes to get them? Demand drives supply.

Drugs like cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines are completely illegal; yet the supply is plentiful, despite a many-decades long "war on drugs" that at times has been quite draconian. If we can't stop millions of drug shipments across the border or from hidden meth labs, how could we possibly stop mere thousands of guns from entering the black market? As Chapman's logic implies, whether he recognizes it or not, all a nationwide gun ban would do is keep them away from law abiding citizens.

Who places the highest value on owning a firearm? Criminals. Who is least likely to fear being prosecuted for violating the law? Criminals. Who is most likely to have access to illicit dealers? You guessed it.

We don't have to guess or speculate anymore. We have conducted our own empirical study over the past several decades. For example, we banned machine guns and sawed-off shotguns in 1934 (the National Firearms Act), handguns in many cities back in the 1970s through 1990s (due to pressure by Handgun Control, Inc. and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence), and so-called assault weapons (whatever those are) from 1994 to 2004 (the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act, a.k.a. the federal assault-weapons ban). The result, in each case, was that crime went up significantly, not down.

Contrariwise, when we tried the opposite approach, in the many states that adopted shall-issue CCW, we discovered that when there were more guns in the hands of law abiding citizens, there were fewer crimes committed. Of course, correlation does not prove causality; we cannot state for certain that more guns result in fewer crimes. But by this point, we can pretty definitely say that more guns do not result in more crimes, which is the central argument -- in fact, the only argument -- of gun controllers.

Anti-gun radicals focus only on the murder weapon; they never consider the context in which the murders occur. For example, they almost never question whether their proposed law would have prevented the crime... or even whether their proposed law was already in effect when the crime occurred! Scores of anti-gun commentators rose up after the Newton massacre and demanded that we finally, finally ban "automatic weapons"... which of course have been strictly controlled by the National Firearms Act since a few years after the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

Note from Dafydd: Is that just ignorance of terms, confusing an automatic weapon with a semiauto? I don't think so: Some years ago, during congressional debates in 1994 on Bill Clinton's ban on "assault weapons," I recall a Democratic senator (but not Chuck Schumer, D-NY, 90%, I think) standing at the well of the Senate, claiming that with a single "automatic" weapon of the type the bill would ban, he could go -- here the lawmaker held up an invisible, pretend machine gun, spraying the room while mimicking the noise of automatic fire, as would a child, for about three seconds -- and kill every single person in the room... all 100+ of them. That was no confusion of terms between auto and semiauto; that senator literally argued that machine guns were readily available in local gun stores but would be banned under the 1994 assault-weapon bill.

Aside from killing innocent children (already illegal), carrying guns into a gun-free zone (public school, a.k.a. a free-kill zone) is also already illegal. That did not deter Adam Lanza. So why would an additional handgun ban or a revived "assault weapon" ban have deterred him? If he could not get guns from his mother's gun collection, he would have found another source. For that matter, he might have found another weapon all together, such as molotov cocktails or even an Oklahoma-City style ANFO bomb. There are scores of ways to kill large number of people, if one is determined and unafraid of dying -- or in Lanza's case, planning to kill himself anyway.

What we must focus on instead is the person who kills innocent people, not the specific weapon he chooses to kill them with; how do we identify and stop that man before he kills?

The best way is armed point defense. Why shouldn't we have armed security guards in every school? If the cost is too high, why not reduce it by firing one or two useless administrators for every armed guard the district hires? Rich people's sons and daughters -- including Barack Obama's -- have armed guards protecting them, even apart from the Secret Service protection the president and vice president enjoy. Why shouldn't everybody else's kids be equally protected?

Banning guns never stopped criminals. Only guns in the hands of many good people can do that. As the saying goes, when seconds count, the police are just minutes away. But the intended victim of a violent crime is already there, and should already be prepared to defend himself and loved ones.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, January 9, 2013, at the time of 7:41 PM

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