No More D.C. Gun Ban? No Big Deal

The Supreme Court recently struck down the gun ban in Washington, D.C. A similar gun ban in Chicago may be the next to go.

The primary rationale for these gun bans is to lower crime. Do they actually work? There is remarkably little academic research that directly answers this question, but there is some indirect evidence.

Let’s start with the direct evidence. There have been a few academic papers that directly analyzed the D.C. gun ban and the papers came to opposite conclusions.

The fundamental difficulty is that you have one law change. So you can compare D.C. before and after. Or you can try to find a control group and compare D.C. before and after to that control group before and after (in what economists call a differences-in-differences analysis).

The problem here is that crime rates are volatile and it really matters what control group you pick. I would argue that the most sensible control groups are other large, crime-ridden cities like Baltimore or St. Louis. When you use those cities as controls, the gun ban doesn’t seem to work.

What about indirect evidence? In Chicago we have a gun ban and 80 percent of homicides are done with guns. The best I could find about the share of homicides done with guns in D.C. is from a blog post which claims 80 percent in D.C. as well. Nationwide that number is 67.9 percent, according to the F.B.I.

Based on those numbers, it is hard for someone to argue with a straight face that the gun ban is doing its job. (And it is not that D.C. and Chicago have unusually low overall homicide rates either.)

It seems to me that these citywide gun bans are as ineffective as many other gun policies are for reducing gun crime. It is extremely difficult to legislate or regulate guns when there is an active black market and a huge stock of existing guns. When the people who value guns the most are the ones who use them in the drug trade, there is next to nothing you can do to keep the guns out of their hands.

My view is that we should not be making policies about gun ownership, because they simply don’t work. What seems to work is harshly punishing people who use guns illegally.

For instance, if you commit a felony with a gun, you get a mandatory five-year add-on to your prison sentence. Where this has been done there is some evidence gun violence has declined (albeit with some substitution towards crimes being done with other weapons).

These sorts of laws are attractive for many reasons. First, unlike other gun policies, they work. Second, they don’t impose a cost on law abiding folks who want to have guns.


Maureen

The suggestion of a five-year add-on for firearm-involved crimes made me laugh. In Baltimore, people often don't do time for crimes they confess to and are convicted of, even with mandatory minimum sentences. That, too, would be a band-aid. Plus, it's been a long time since jail time was a disincentive to crime.

Seymour

Luke,

You live in the USA. The US Constitution applies to you and whatever little town you would like to set up.

There are plenty of Countries with NO Constitution and Bill of Rights. Pick one.

Dustin

Paulk, Wouldn't better disciplinary measures for gun related crimes be a better way to punish people rather than making innocent people pay insurance on guns? Like others have said, driving is not a constitutional right and there is a higher chance of a car wreck than my gun being stolen by black market profiteers, hence insurance policies being required. Just because guns are banned does not mean there are not guns available, just like in D.C. Bans only affect law abiding citizens as proven by the statistics. So the only people affected by your "Bond" is innocent people. What if I am held up in my house and forced to give the robber my guns? Your idea has good intentions but is not based on any logical premise

Jared Kells

Glad I don't live in the United States.

I love how you guys imagine yourselves rolling out of bed and shooting up home invaders like your in the special forces.

I also love the contradiction that you should read the constitution in the context of the time it was written but then literally apply it to today without context.

PaulK

jenifer, bonds are basically insurance policies. You never have to put down face value, but you will be held to it. Do you drive a car without insurance? Do you own a house without insurance? Should we not hold people responsible for items they hold so as not to discriminate. With a weapon comes responsibility - too many owners do not seem to understand that.
I have owned guns, but do not now that I have kids (I can read the FBI statistics). But, I do not think owning guns is a right without any restriction. I think all owners should be held responsible for the security of the guns. I always kept mine safely locked up. I would not have minded buying an insurance/bond policy any more than I mind buying insurance for my car.

Ike

#79, @jz-md

Once again, Kellerman's study only measures the outcomes where an intruder is foiled in a fatal manner. It doesn't count those like my father who held the interloper at bay until arrested. It also makes no provision for the deterrence of crime -- and it neither accounts for whether those committing violent acts of suicide or domestic violence would have done so with an alternate instrument.

It is statistical cherry-picking, which I believe is Levitt's initial point. We haven't been asking the right questions, and the studies to date have either had an end in mind or were engineered from a premise that was too local.

PaulK

Hugh Dietz, "My father pulled his target pistol on a burglar": I was in a car crash without a seat belt and survived, so clearly seat belts are not needed by anyone. Using one lucky example when there are so many contradicting ones is not statistics or evidence. Ignoring all the homeowners who shoot a friend/neighbor/relative because they think they are a burglar, there seems little positive evidence for home owners having a gun when burglarized; the FBI does not seem to break out the details very well, which makes it hard. But there are a lot of cases of homeowners shot when pulling a gun on a burglar. Let's face it, most are probably more willing to pull the trigger than you are 1st of all. Second of all, if you shoot a burglar in the back as they are running away, you will go to jail in most states (rightly so - taking a life to protect property is a poor tradeoff).

John G

PaulK, I think you're missing Jen's point. While you have the luxury of owning a car, many do not (many NYC residents never even learn how to drive!). Do you propose making them pay for their 2nd Amendment Right? Certainly you can't say that the underprivileged deserve Constitutional Rights less than the well-to-do, especially when you consider that they live in far, far more dangerous neighborhoods.

And, of course, last I looked, cars weren't a protected right (quite the opposite, they are the most notable privilege).

waeuhrli

to whoever wants to bring up the uk as a pro for gun control:

a) they had much much lower crime rates than the us even before guns were banned

b) now they get to have knife crime panicks because the scary yoots are rampaging wild in the streets slicing and dicing

Economist Grunt

The only thing that drives me batty about these discussions is when politicians are extremely vocal about gun control as they sit surrounded by armed security. I am in favor of making just about everything illegal if I'm legally absolved from following the rules.

http://economistgrunt.blogspot.com/2008/07/politicians-hate-your-children-why-else.html

jenifer

T-Bone - Regulations to track gun ownership don't work simply because you want them to. I'm not saying they don't, but you haven't provided evidence that they do.

PaulK (82) - Not only is it completely wrong to charge exorbitant amounts of money to allow someone to exercise a constitutional right, but now you're treading on discrimination ground, since most people cannot afford what you propose. Do only the rich deserve the right to protect themselves? Finally, it sounds like you don't own guns or want to. But that doesn't make it okay to impose severe restrictions on others. It's legal to own guns. It's not okay to make that exceedingly difficult simply because it doesn't affect you personally.

shaman

Read Justice Breyer's dissenting opinion (the second dissent, here: http://www.scotusblog.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/07-2901.pdf ), to get a better understanding of the data presented by both sides of this case, and a perspective on their importance in the SC's decision. Two key points:

First, the data from both sides is necessarily short-term and uncontrolled in terms of co-factors. This makes any conclusion (for or against effectiveness) dubious at best. (Eg are long-term success stories driven by other cultural differences?) J. Breyer was smart to dismiss the contradictory, and poorly supported, evidence before him.

Second, the protection afforded by the second ammendment is not absolute - no rights are. J. Breyer is brilliant in his explanation of the way laws must be evaluated when one "freedom" is exchanged for another - in this instance, the right to bear arms vs. the right to live in safety.

So, with the above in mind, the question posed by the blog's OP (Do gun laws work?) is dubious at best. Not only is it a question that cannot be reasonably answered (with the data available), but it is also not the standard to which the constitution intended law-makers to abide.

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Hugh Dietz

to Berend, My father pulled his target pistol on a burglar. Burglar sat down and waited for the police to arrive. Nobody hurt.

Now, if the burglar had a gun, wouldn't you want to be able to protect yourself with something more persuasive than words or tv's? Why wouldn't you pull a gun on a burglar?

T-Bone

I don't think gun bans work, but I do thing regulations to track who buys a gun and track the ownership of those guns do work. DC, with it's tight gun laws, wouldn't have a gun problem if it weren't for neighboring areas that still make it easy for criminals to get guns and for "law-abiding citizens" to purchase guns legally to sell to a black market connection. "Legal" and unrestricted suppliers are the problem.

We always hear the argument that criminals get guns on the black market, therefore gun regulations/restrictions only affect law-abiding citizens, but it seems we're forgetting where the black market originates.

Though perhaps one of the most effective solutions would be to legalize drugs, since so much crime is drug related.

John G

PaulK, all I can say is wow. Paying an annual fee for a Constitutional right? You never did mention whether you'd be ok with doing so for your free speech rights; I'll assume it is because you are not. I'm just happy that you are not part of the Judiciary charged with defending that pesky little Constitution.

Captain James C. Green

In regard to Aussie Ben's comment yesterday... He'd better take a harder look at the true statistics of what has actually happened in his country since the total ban which saw 640,000 rifles and shotguns gathered and destroyed in 1997.

Ban supporters, including gun prohibitionists in the U.S., have actively been promoting the legislation`s alleged crime-fighting benefits.

Crime statistics, however, contradict them. For example, from 1997-1998, assaults and armed robberies increased in ALL Australian states.

Armed robberies increased from 42% of all robberies in 1997 to 46% in 1998. The number of total violent crimes and the numbers of all individual categories of violent crime, with the exception of murder, increased. In addition, unlawful entries rose 3.3% from 421,569 in 1997 to 435,670 in 1998.

Note: The violent crime statistics were retrieved from the Australia Bureau of Statistics website.

See these other articles from Australian publications:

"The number of Victorians murdered with firearms has almost trebled since the introduction of tighter gun laws.
--Geelong Advertiser, Victoria, Sept. 11, 1997.

"Gun crime is on the rise despite tougher laws imposed after the Port Arthur massacre, but gun control lobbyists maintain Australia is a safer place. . . . The number of robberies involving guns jumped 39% last year to 2183, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and assaults involving guns rose 28% to 806. The number of gun murders, excluding the Port Arthur massacre, increased by 19% to 75."
--"Gun Crime Rises Despite Controls," Illawarra Mercury Oct. 28, 1998.

"Crime involving guns is on the rise despite tougher laws. The number of robberies with guns jumped 39% in 1997, while assaults involving guns rose 28% and murders by 19%."

Australia and all of the UK far exceed the USA in violent crime... Check this out to inform yourself:

http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=21902

Sorry Ben, but you've been duped by misleading politicians trying to justify their draconian irresponsibility in your country. It just ain't so.

BTW, I never go anywhere without being armed--- eat your heart out!

Captain Jim Green

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Duane

Gun Control and Gun Ban!! Unfortunantly I have agreed with what was said in this article for many years. Do you want to stop violent crime? Then make it mandatory that every citizen and legal resident own and carry a gun. Only when the criminals know that every adult citizen and home onwer is carrying a gun will all of these violent crimes stop.

You will have to do some research because I can not remember the town or state but there was one down south that made it mandatory. Violent crime went down 90%!!!!

Thugs don't go where they know they can get themselves shot. All I can say is if you come in my house you will have a chest full of 30-30 slugs.

So for some who have commented on why should I own a gun. I tell you this go call the police when someone breaks into your home. You will get a pizza delivered faster most times. There just aren't enough policemen to cover every neighborhood, every block, every road nor highway in america. Then again I would not want that many police officers around.

What we need when we enact the mandatory gun ownership is classes and certification for all gun owners and their children. Make very stiff penalties for guns and any weapon used in a crime period. Then you will see places like Compton and D.C. become safe again.

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jz-md

to #77:
Kellerman's assumptions are, in practice, sound.
Gunshots are uniquely efficacious at suicide, homicide, and accidents compared to other attempted modes.

PaulK

If you make every gun owner buy a bond for say $10,000 per handgun (and much less for rifles and shotguns), then make them prove they still have it each year or lose the money. This would stop the back-channel flow of guns more quickly. Does not matter if you say it was stolen or lost, it will cost you. If you lose your gun(s) in two incidences, you go to jail. This will allow ownership, slow the black market considerably (especially those who buy them and then sell into the black market), teach owners to lock up their guns or else pay if they get them stolen, and yet not restrict ownership.
As to the issue of Chicago and DC, the 1st question is whether you considered that gun violence jumped across the country after a nice decline for quite a few years? So, unless you subtract that out, you are not measuring the effect of a law very well and you know better.

wb

Back up to #3: "Why would a normal citizen need a gun? I can only think of burglary. But say you have a burglar in your house: would it really be wise to pull a gun on him?"

Has a loved one of yours been raped by a burglar in your own home? Obviously not. Wish I could say the same. But I can't, and so I have trained in self-protection (with and without a weapon).

For a man, it's a different question than for a woman. You may be able to physically intimidate an intruder to leave, and a fireplace poker in your hands looks a lot more threatening than it does when a 120-pound woman wields one.

The handgun wan't called an "equalizer" for nothing. Would I to redesign the world, only women would be able to legally own and use handguns.