Guns, Laws and Commonsense: Part 1

After every major instance when someone is shot and killed using a gun, why must Liberals go running for the microphone and cart out their mantra and pleas for gun control? We heard it after Columbine and after the Giffords incident and we are hearing it now regarding the Trayvon Martin killing (along with concealed carry and stand your ground laws). In this case, we have alleged luminaries mugging for the camera essentially engaging in a media lynching of the shooter. The purpose of this entry is not to comment on the circus in Florida, but the opportunity to discuss guns and gun laws in America.

There are some interesting facts that need mentioning regarding these gun control laws because they lend themselves to some crude statistical analysis. It is one thing to state that there are “X” amount of firearm homicides or crimes in the United States and express our outrage. We can state that any firearms murder is a unacceptable. But, when we look at one of the most onerous solutions- gun control laws or bans- we discover that these laws have little or no effect on the incidence of gun-related violence.

The Brady Campaign is a well-known advocate for gun control laws that annually ranks the states for the strength of their gun laws. I decided to compare the top 10 states versus the bottom ten states on their 2011 list and then compared them against one another in terms of various statistics from the FBI Uniform Crime Statistics Report for 2010 (the latest year available). The top ten gun control states are: California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Rhode Island, Illinois and Pennsylvania. The top lowest states are: Utah, Arizona, Arkansas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Montana, Louisiana, Kentucky, Idaho and Wisconsin. Wisconsin was actually tied with Florida, but that state’s crime statistics are not posted for some reason.

In terms of rankin, the top 10 gun control states average 22.1 compared to an average ranking of 25.4 for the lax states in terms of overall gun crimes which indicates that the states with the more lax gun cntrol laws, in a rather broad comparative sense, have slightly less gun-related crime. Looking at just homicides in general, guns are used in 63.5% of all deaths in the gun control states and 59% in the lax states which indicates that if one is to be murdered, your chances of being killed by a gun are actually higher in a state with strong gun control laws.

In the most stringent states, the average rate of homicide by a gun per 100,000 population is 299.3 versus 246.4 in the lax states. Likewise, the rate in stringent states for robberies involving firearms is higher than the states with the lax gun control laws (30.1 versus 25.5 per 100,000 population). What does all this prove? It proves the primary argument for stringent gun control laws-strict restrictions on firearms ownership- holds no statistical water whatsoever. Incidentally, I opted to leave DC, with perhaps the most stringent gun control laws in the nation, out of the grouping since they had the highest firearm crime rates by far. Conversely, I DID include Louisiana (second to DC in crime) among the lax states. Still, the stringent gun control states came out worse in terms of firearms-related crimes. No matter how one looks at it, stringent gun control laws have no effect on decreasing violent gun crimes (homicides, robberies, or assaults).

Likewise, we can analyze the effect of concealed carry and “stand your ground”/Castle Laws on the actual commission of crimes. In terms of the states with no restrictions on concealed carry, the gun related murder rate average per 100,000 is 182.4. Among so-called “shall issue” states, the rate is 252.5, then 302.1 in “may issue” states and a whopping 549.8 in no issue states (DC included here). The same trends hold for robberies and assaults involving guns.

With stand your ground and/or Castle laws, the analysis is a little more tricky. Nine states have explicit laws (actually ten states but I could not use Florida because they had no crime statistics). They are: Illinois (surprisingly), Kentucky, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Washington and West Virginia. I used this group of nine for comparative purposes against nine states that do not have these laws explicitly, nor are the concepts rooted in their common law. Some of these states also landed on the Brady Campaign top ten most stringent gun control laws list, which is not surprising since these states generally disfavor guns in the broader sense. On every metric, states that had stand your ground laws had a lower rate of homicide per 100,000 (216.6 to 265.2), a lower rate of robberies with guns (25.9 to 31.5), a lower rate of assaults with guns (34.2 to 38.5), and a slightly lower percentage of all homicides attributable to firearms.

Obviously, not being a statistician by training, some people can take exception to the methodology, but it needs mentioning that others who are statisticians and sociologists or political scientists have come to similar trends. Often, the only Liberal attack on these findings is the methodology used. They cannot attack the general findings which tend to indicate that gun control laws have no effect on lowering firearms related crime rates.

Another Liberal attack is that guns can fall into the hands of the insane, bullied school kids, and disgruntled workers who can then inflict serious damage. That is certainly true, but it is also true of any potential weapon falling into the hands of these people. Then again, I cannot think of one even hardcore Conservative who would advocate that the insane or felons have an unfettered right to gun ownership. With felons, their criminal history is readily available and verifiable. With those adjudicated insane, it is also easy. But for the insane in general, obviously a psychiatric exam prior to the purchase of a firearm would have serious civil rights ramifications and I cannot see any Liberal arguing for such. Of course, the bullied kid or disgruntled worker could get their hands on gun and go berserk and perhaps those in a position to know failed to read the warning signs and connect the dots. But, do we throw out the baby with the bath water and effectively penalize the overwhelmingly vast majority of law-abiding Americans who wish to own a firearm on the off chance we prevent a Columbine? This would appear to be the Liberal knee-jerk response.

We have seen the effects of prohibition of an item in the past where more crime, through the creation of black markets, actually made crime rates worse. Today, since the early part of the 20th century, we have had Federal drug laws that, essentially prohibit their possession and use, but surely no one argues that there is no black market for drugs a century later. Likewise, bans on firearms purchases, possession or sales or even laws that make it practically impossible will also simply create a black market and make criminals out of otherwise law-abiding citizens. Hence, they would become even more reliant on an already overtaxed and over extended police force. Simply, that is not a shift in the balance of power towards the criminal that we can afford to experience.

Yet despite these facts, we have “leaders” like Charles Schumer (D-NY) direct the Attorney General “look into these ‘stand your ground’ laws.” Well, Eric Holder would be the last person I would personally consult in this area to start with anyway. Regardless, there is no conceivable way the Federal government can regulate states in this area. I suppose they could conceivably threaten to withhold federal crime fighting dollars until states abandon these laws, but that would be a serious intrusion into state policing powers. They used the similar stick and carrot approach with the legal drinking age and highway funds. But that would implicate serious Constitutional issues, not the least of which is federalism. Come to think of it, that little thing called the Constitution has never stopped a Liberal before.

In part 2, I will discuss guns and the Constitution, specifically the Second Amendment, since they (Liberals) often misinterpret this right to bear arms enshrined in that Amendment.

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