Beware the Brady Rankings
A few weeks ago, the Brady Campaign, an organization that advocates gun control legislation at the State and Federal levels, released their annual report card of state gun control laws. According to their rankings, California ranks #1 as having the best gun control laws, while Kentucky, Oklahoma and Louisiana were tied as the worst. While we can quibble with the objectivity of the criteria or the final rankings, lets, for the sake of argument, accept these findings by the Brady Campaign as definitive.
With great fanfare, they released the results to the media. Here locally, in the California of the East Coast- New Jersey, our elected leaders were besides themselves slapping themselves on their collective backs for our #2 ranking. Actually, the top 10 states are basically all bastions of liberalism. The bottom ten are those backwards, redneck, ignorant states like Oklahoma, South Carolina and the Dakotas. After all, the liberal eilte will tell us, what do these people know? In short, the bottom of the Brady list pretty much are reliably Republican states in Presidential elections. If you look at these rankings, you find that the blue states have an average ranking of 11.5 while red states have an average ranking of 35.0 with “swing states” coming in at 25.6.
But what does all this mean? The purported reason for gun control laws is to reduce violent crime. But does removing guns or making access to them more restrictive actually decrease violent crime or homicide rates? When looking at the Brady rankings against the background of the 2006 (most recently obtained) crime statistics, the top ten states have a violent crime rate per 100,000 population 421.7 with a homicide rate of 4.84. The ten lowest ranked states, by contrast, have a violent crime rate of 379.4 with a homicide rate of 4.78- both figures better than the “best” states, according to the Brady Campaign. And although the homicide rates are actually almost identical, one needs to consider that 26% of the bottom ten’s total is attributable to Louisiana post-Hurricane Katrina where we can safely say that there was a general breakdown in overall law and order. Still, the homicide is slightly lower (4.73 when Louisiana is eliminated from the equation). Meanwhile, no single state skews the overall results among the ten best states. And while it may be true, as they note, that a low ranked state like South Carolina has a high homicide rate, they fail to mention that other low ranked states have very low homicide and violent crime rates. In fact, six of the bottom ten have homicide rates below the national average, as do six of the top ten ranked states. For every South Carolina they like to cite, there is a Maryland among the top ten. It is also interesting that the Brady Campaign does not rank the District of Columbia, which had some of the most onerous gun control laws on their books before the Supreme Court struck them down. Simply put, DC makes Louisiana look like a crime free Nirvana. The homicide rate in DC is an astonishing 29.1, or almost 2-1/2 times that of Louisiana.
These Brady rankings create publicity for the organization and fodder for those on the left who like to cite these “studies” as proof-positive that gun control laws decrease crime. They will undoubtedly trot these studies out when the inevitable legislation comes along. There is a pending bill- H.R. 45- that may come up for consideration later this year which would require federal registration of handguns. And Barack Obama has the perfect man at the Justice Department in Eric Holder. He filed an amicus brief in the Holder case decided in 2007 that concluded the “right to bear arms” is a personal right, not a collective one. As Deputy Attorney General, he argued in the Fifth Circuit Court (in United States v. Emerson) that the 2nd Amendment was no impediment to the government confiscating guns, even from those in the National Guard. He has endorsed the federal licensing of handgun owners, a 3-day waiting period, a one-gun-per-month limit for purchases, laws that would essentially shutdown gun shows, national gun registration, and mandatory sentences for misdeameanors that involve any type of gun. He has said that “12-13 children die every day from guns” which is true ONLY IF we include 18-year-old gang members shooting at each other. One need look no further than left leaning publications and web sites to realize that Holder is their man. Of course, Obamaspeak will be used and it will be dressed in nice-sounding neutral phrases.
So when the inevitable debate begins and they trot out their Brady Campaign witnesses as “experts” to show how gun control laws decrease violent crimes, don’t just think of South Carolina or Louisiana. Think also of the positive- Utah, the Dakotas and Oklahoma- and force them how to explain that these states with “lax” gun laws have low violent crime/homicide rates. Have them explain how states with strong gun laws like Maryland, California and Illinois have high crime rates. Have them explain how a state like North Dakota could be ranked 43rd, yet have only two homicides last year- both committed with knives. Have them explain why the violent crime rate in Florida decreased 24% after they enacted an allowed concealed weapon law. Have them explain why as the overall homicide and violent crime rate increased from 2000 to 2006, why the percentage of those committed by guns did not show an similar percentage increase. While you’re at it, have them explain why those homicides as being committed by “other means” have shown the greatest percentage increase over the same time period. To me, that would indicate that the murderers out there are getting more innovative and resourceful in how they kill- guns or no guns. Simply, guns, or the availability of guns to law-abiding people, has no bearing on these crime statistics. I, like they, would like to see gun violence decrease in America, as I would also like to see violence with knives, or baseball bats, or lead pipes, or bare fists decrease. unfortunately, it is the law-abiding citizens who will most adversely be impacted by these proposed laws.