Prompted by a friends continuing jabs against gun control, or at least against the effectiveness of it, I decided to dig into the numbers a bit further. Before going further, I’ll say this: the results weren’t what I was expecting, at least initially. But on further study and reflection, they are completely predictable, and further, bolster the argument of those who are for gun control. Of course, at a glance, they can also bolster the argument of gun control opponents as well.
Lets get going.
First, my sources.
- The Daily Beast had an article that compiled the number of NICS background checks (required for gun purchases at dealers) by state. I assumed that their numbers are correct and used them.
- Trace The Guns has compiled the flow of illegal guns by state, imports of and exports of. I again assumed that their numbers were correct and used them as is.
- The Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence has ranked all of the states by how strict their gun laws are. It’s available here.
- And, the FBI has issued a report totalling crime (violent crime and property crime) by state. The 2012 report is here.
I’ll open with the words that Paul will likely want to hear – the amount of violent crime per capita is nearly identical in states with many gun owners compared to fewer gun owners (based on the number of NICS background checks). The five states with the most gun owners per capita DO rank slightly safer, with an incidence rate of 301 per 100,000 compared to 319 per 100,000 in the five least armed states.
Same goes for states with stiffer gun laws as ranked by the Brady Campaign – the incidence rate of violent crime in the five least restrictive states is 357 per 100,000 compared to 375 per 100,000 citizens in the five most restrictive.
For property crimes, the numbers swing the other way. When ranked by number of presumed gun owners, the five states with the most gun owners have an 2,632 property crimes committed per 100,000 citizens, compared to 2,241 crimes per 100,000 citizens in the five least armed states.
Adherence to the Brady Campaign exacerbates this difference even further – the five least restrictive states have an 3,122 property crimes per 100,000 citizens versus 2,450 per 100,000 in the most restrictive states.
The take away is that having armed or unarmed citizens generally doesn’t make much difference in terms of violent crime. And, again, after a little bit of though, that’s to be expected. If people that are prone to committing violent crime are evenly distributed, then their crimes would be as well. As for availability of guns to commit those crimes? Guns are an incredibly fluid resource – they can be purchased in one state and used several states away. And here is where things get interesting:
- The five states with the most crime gun exports per capita average 39.72 guns exported per 100,000 citizens and an average Brady score of 4.8.
- The five states with the least crime gun exports average only 4.8 crime gun exports per 100,000 citizens and have an average Brady score of 54.4
One could basically say that it doesn’t matter how strict a states gun laws are, as guns will flow out from the most permissive states to the least permissive via the black market. To which I would argue that that should mean that firearms ought to be regulated at the Federal level rather than the State level. After all, it is the Constitution that even provides for a right to bear arms.
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the
security of a free state, the right of the people
to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
The Second Amendment provides us with the right to bear arms, yes. Gun control opponents focus only on the second half of the Amendment, blissfully ignoring that their right to bear arms won’t be infringed ONLY if they are operating in “well regulated” manner. How can a “well regulated” militia exist when the authorities of the State don’t even know who they can call upon in times of need? How can a militia be “well regulated” if the State knows nothing about the training and capabilities of its members? How an it be “well regulated” if no one knows the mental capacities of its members?
For too long, the NRA has told the public that it’s their constitutional right to bear arms, yet it fights tooth and nail against any form of regulation of those arms or those bearing them, contrary to the Constitution.
“That’s great,” you say “how would that make a difference?”
This is where we expand our view. Rather than looking at only the United States, where illegal guns can move around fluidly, lets look at the world, where national governments wield much more regulatory power insofar as how guns can enter the market place. After all, every illegal gun starts out as a legal one (unless you build your own or live in a regions where others do)
Looking at other countries with societies comparable to ours, the fire arm related death rate (per Wikipedia, as checked on 11/14/2013) is as follows:
United States of America 10.30
United Kingdom 0.25
What is different between all of those other countries and the US.
- Switzerland is quite liberal in their gun laws – there is a right to gun ownership, all gun owners must be licensed, however concealed carry is banned. Time Magazine reported on this.
- Germany also allows gun ownership, and again, citizens must prove that they have a legitimate reason for wanting a gun, and must pass a firearms safety course in order to obtain a license.
- France allows firearms as well, but in a much more restrictive way. Applicants must prove a genuine reason for wanting a gun, pass a very stringent background check (which evaluates criminal history, mental and health records) and adhere to limitations on ammunition purchases based on their expected use of the weapon.
- Britain gets far more restrictive, disallowing possession of handguns and semi-automatic rifles altogether.
- Japan, has no guarantee right to bear arms. Japanese citizens are not allowed to possess handguns or most rifles, though there is a licensing and approval process to obtain a hunting rifle.
My take away from all of this is that it is clear that gun control works when applied at a national level. It only breaks down when it’s applied unevenly in different areas of a country, as even the most restrictive laws in one state mean nothing when a gun can be simply purchased in another state transported to the more restrictive area. If we’re going to cite the Constitution in regards to firearms, then we ought to cite the entire Amendment, and not just the phrase that suits our desires. Yes, there are many guns out there already, but it’s never too late to start to try to stem the flow of guns into less desirable hands.