More guns, less crime

The US Supreme Court’s 2008 decision to strike down Washington DC’s handgun ban and gunlock requirements should have led to a surge in murders, with Wild West shootouts. At least that’s what those who supported the maintenance of the ban predicted.

In fact, DC’s murder rate plummeted by an astounding 25 percent last year, much faster than for the US as a whole or for similarly sized cities.

John Lott, the author of More Guns, Less Crime, has an updated edition coming out in which he argues that every time gun bans have been tried, murder rates have risen.

That might be relevant when the Supreme Court considers whether its decision to strike down DC’s ban also applies to the States, and in particular to Chicago.  Chicago’s murder rate fell relative to other large cities prior to its 1982 handgun ban, and rose relative to them afterwards.

They also rose in Jamaica, Ireland, the UK and (for a time) Australia when gun prohibition was introduced.

Personally, I think gun laws probably have no impact either way on crime rates in Australia, at least in trend terms. But Lott’s arguments for America are supported by substantial data and serious analysis. To argue he has it wrong, you need far more than anti-gun bigotry.

16 thoughts on “More guns, less crime

  1. I have the book More Guns, Less Crime. And, yes, Australia’s anti-gun laws do encourage criminals to go rogue and they do make life hard for law-abiding citizens.

  2. A great book came out a while back, called ‘Guns and Violence’, and it showed the link between increasing gun regulations in Britain, and increasing violence in crimes. The Author felt that statistics showed that such a link did exist. Britain has a reputation for being a gun-free country, but that’s not true. The police and the criminals used to have an understanding, that the police wouldn’t carry guns if the criminals wouldn’t use them. None of that meant that you couldn’t buy guns, but nobody felt a compelling need to, either. Now some criminals are using weapons, and the public has less and less right to do so.

  3. At the time of the court decision I figured that this would be good one to watch over time. However a 25% reduction in murder rates is a pretty dramatic change. DavidL do you have a link to the source of that statistic?

  4. It seems like a weird correlation.

    I would have thought that murder isn’t very strongly linked with gun ownership either way. Manslaughter by criminals attempting to commit other crimes (like armed robbery or burglary) seems to be more logically relevant.

    But nonetheless interesting. I’m definitely more sold on the “guns make people safe” argument than I used to be. 25% less murder based on higher gun ownership seems a questionable correlation, though. What types of murders went down, crimes of passion, etc? And what about manslaughter? Assault? Anyway, sounds like a potentially good read.

  5. Does Lott account for the change in classification of gun deaths?

    I mean one person with a gun shooting an unarmed person is almost always going to be classed as murder, but when 2 people with guns meet I’m guessing that is going to be classed as self-defense or at least manslaughter more often.

  6. The first link in your post doesn’t work by the way David, it just says “page not found”.

  7. Also is it clear that there are more guns or just that guns are now permitted more.

  8. “I’ve discussed this issue here:-”

    – to no avail it seems. It’s like trying to agrue for gay rights with the members of the Westboro baptist church.

  9. Terje,

    Quiggin is alright but his cheer squad are rabid or just stupid. EG is egregiously stupid. I quoted Jared Diamond once about how Rockerfeller actually caused the price of oil to fall and then the criticism evolved from commonly held unbased assertions to conspiracy theories. There are of course some nice and decent people there but unfortunately there are a lot of left wing versions of a libertarian of avian persuasion…

  10. Thats just an occupational hazard I’d say. Some minor punishment is in order. Nothing serious.

    John Lott seems pretty convincing with regards to his case for concealed carry. I wonder if there is room to nuance it. Wherein we might go for more and more firepower, but less lethality in the ordnance. So you might have your metal storm, three shot before recoil automatic handgun. But with bullets wherein there is still a chance that the fellow you shoot might recover.

    I have no settled position on this. And of course the mature citizen ought to have stashes of the real bullets in a number of places. But one wonders if that might be the better combination. More power and less lethality. That might seem also to have a better crossover for national security. Since when it came to an invasion you’d have the firepower, and it would be a simple matter of altering to lead-delivery or even more lethal stuff.

    Here is a nice little video about the AA12.

    Every hardened Australian home could have one. With some folks, but not all folks licensed for the hard-core bullets. But with many people content on less-lethal protection.

  11. Yes, Terje, very interesting. Let’s see if Mr Overland faces the same treatment that any other legal firearm user would face.

    If anything, it will set a good precedent. If he isn’t charged and properly prosecuted we can’t expect anything else for other legal firearm owners who have an indiscretion of similar magnitude. Taking ammunition into the cabin of a commercial passenger jet is one hell of an offence – after all, we remove nail clippers from passengers. I think the pressure to give Mr Overland a show trial or ‘severe’ public warning will be substantial from certain circles, though. So much for one law for all.

  12. If he isn’t charged and properly prosecuted we can’t expect anything else for other legal firearm owners who have an indiscretion of similar magnitude.


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