Yet another bit of data to mull over in the gun-control wars, courtesy of Quinnipiac University’s Mark Gius:
The purpose of the present study is to determine the effects of state-level assault weapons bans and concealed weapons laws on state-level murder rates. Using data for the period 1980 to 2009 and controlling for state and year fixed effects, the results of the present study suggest that states with restrictions on the carrying of concealed weapons had higher gun-related murder rates than other states. It was also found that assault weapons bans did not significantly affect murder rates at the state level. These results suggest that restrictive concealed weapons laws may cause an increase in gun-related murders at the state level. The results of this study are consistent with some prior research in this area, most notably Lott and Mustard (1997).
That would be John Lott, author of “More Guns, Less Crime,” a book that has been lodged firmly in the craw of gun-control advocates for years. (The co-author of his 1997 study, Colonel David B. Mustard, is currently under investigation for the untimely demise of Professor Plum following an unfortunate incident with a candlestick in the drawing room. *)
I haven’t seen a response to the Quinnipiac study from Lott yet, but he noted in a December op-ed that public opposition to gun control laws had reached 20-year highs on the anniversary of the Newtown shooting, in large part because they clearly don’t see such laws as effective crime-fighting tools. He made an interesting observation about the alleged public support for the only popular gun-control measure, expanded background checks for firearms purchases:
A frequent claim by control advocates this year has been that 80 percent to 90 percent of Americans are in favor of expanded background-checks legislation. But the polls showing such overwhelming support really ask little more than whether people want to stop criminals from obtaining guns, not whether voters actually favor the legislation that the Senate was voting on.
The actual laws being discussed were much less popular.
For example, a mid-April poll by the Pew Research Center provides one such illustration when it asks voters whether they were happy that the Senate bill had been defeated. While 67 percent of Democrats were ???disappointed??? or ???angry??? about the defeat, more Republicans and independents were ??? very happy??? or ???relieved??? than upset by the defeat.
That’s an interesting conflation of objective and process – claiming support for what a public policy ostensibly seeks to achieve, rather than what it actually does. Needless to say, this tactic is hardly unique to gun control policy.
It’s always good to have more data and analysis on the effectiveness of public policies, particularly when they have life-and-death consequences. The gun-control movement operates largely on the belief that the devices themselves are inherently sinister – or, more properly, that possession of firearms will lead otherwise law-abiding people to commit violent crimes, or kill each other accidentally. This is combined with a deep belief in the uselessness of armed citizens, a refusal to believe that good guys with guns can deter or thwart crimes, unless they are law-enforcement agents. There is also an underlying conviction that society can be made safer by banning firearms possession entirely, although it is politically inconvenient for gun-control activists to express this conviction out loud – it’s the logical conclusion to most of their arguments, but they always take pains to assure us they have no intention of banning the weapons of hunters, or the non-concealable officially-approved instrument of home defense, the shotgun.
What keeps emerging from these studies is data that disproves all of these beliefs, making both the core convictions of gun control zealotry, and all of their current enthusiasms, matters of fantasy and offenses against our Constitutional right to bear arms. In other words, the gun control zealots are wrong both in principle and practice. They’re wasting a lot of political energy – not to mention time and money – on pointless efforts to impose an ideology that runs counter to reality.
And the realities really aren’t that complicated, are they? On the matter of accidental firearms injury, which is a reasonable concern given how dangerous guns are, no one is more interested in gun safety than the eternal nemesis of the gun-control movement, the National Rifle Association. Of course every gun owner should want to handle and store his weapons properly. That’s what the NRA is all about… when they’re not busy fending off encroachments on gun rights, that is.
Of course the only thing that reliably stops bad guys with guns is a well-armed good guy. Sometimes armed assailants can be talked out of violence, but that’s a gamble with long odds and a steep ante. Sometimes the police are actually on the scene when a criminal starts shooting, but we’ll never have enough cops to make that a common occurrence. Speaking of which, there still hasn’t been much celebration of the armed officer on school grounds who stopped the Arapahoe High School shooting… exactly as the NRA proposed, in the wake of the Newtown massacre, to a chorus of derision and contempt from the gun control crowd. And the killer he confronted was using the one gun we’re never supposed to worry about losing access to: a shotgun.
There’s one other unspoken assumption that drives much of the gun-control movement: the cherished left-wing belief that criminals aren’t really responsible for their actions. They are driven to it by circumstances, especially the callous indifference of a greedy capitalist society, but also by the sinister influence of the demon gun. In truth, reduced crime as a result of concealed-carry laws would indicate a certain degree of rational choice on the part of criminals, would it not? They’re less eager to rob people who might be able to resist with lethal violence. One notable law enforcement official who recently came around to this point of view was none other than the police chief of Detroit, James Craig, who says he looked at the reduced crime rates in areas where concealed-carry permits are relatively easy to obtain, and “changed my orientation real quick.”
Very few people on either side of this predator/prey relationship are interested in using “assault rifles,” which is why bans on those media-sexy weapons don’t make much of a difference, aside from making gun-control zealots feel righteously pleased with themselves. Criminals do have a fondness for easily concealed guns, which they insist on concealing whether the local laws permit them to or not.
Only in our wonderland of fantasy politics do all of these obvious realities seem like sensational discoveries. But for those who dream of imposing order through righteous collective power, trust in their law-abiding fellow citizens will always be a limited commodity.
* Actually, he’s an associate professor of economics at the University of Georgia, but I’ll bet he never gets tired of that joke, and it was difficult to avoid telling on the Friday of a holiday week.