Guns restrictions pro/con: Strict gun control doesn't work, can't be enforced
Following the tragic shooting in Las Vegas, anti-gun activists once again started to call for much stricter gun-control measures, which they say will keep Americans safer. Some even suggested the Second Amendment be altered or abolished.
Although many who want the government to impose harsh gun laws have their hearts in the right place, the evidence clearly shows gun-control laws don't work — and even if they did, they never could be realistically enforced nationwide.
Gun-control advocates say that if laws made it much more difficult to purchase firearms and if more firearms were banned, people would be safer. But based on state-level crime data, this claim is false.
For instance, many of the states with the lowest crime rates, including homicide rates, also have some of the fewest limits on gun ownership. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a group that supports enhancing gun-control laws, gave in its recent gun-control report card "F" grades (for having lax gun laws) to five of the six states that have the lowest homicide rates. If having fewer gun restrictions causes more violent crime, why would many states with the lowest homicide rates also have relatively few gun-control laws?
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The data also show there is no connection to higher gun ownership rates and greater amounts of crime. There are only six states in which 50 percent of the households own firearms: Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Montana, West Virginia, and Wyoming. If gun-control supporters are correct about the dangers of firearms, these states should have significantly higher crime rates, but the opposite is true here as well. Data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show four of those six states ranked in the top half of all states for having the lowest homicide rates. Two of the states, Idaho and Wyoming, ranked in the top six.
Further, many cities with very low legal gun ownership rates and stringent gun-control laws, such as Chicago, have extremely high gun-related murder rates.
Gun-control laws also don't prevent mass shootings. An analysis conducted by statistician Leah Libresco shows Australia and Britain have not experienced fewer mass shootings or gun-related crimes since enacting their very strict gun-control laws.
Even if it could be proven that gun control prevents violent crime, enforcing sweeping gun-control legislation in the United States would be virtually impossible. There are about 270 million guns in America; and in 29 states, at least one-third of the households owns guns. How would law-enforcement officials remove tens of millions of newly banned weapons — or even know for sure who owns them? Would police be expected to go door to door to conduct raids in suspected gun owners' homes?
In other countries with strict gun laws, lawmakers have attempted to implement buy-back programs that offer cash for people who turn in banned weapons to government agents. This has little hope of working in the United States, though, where most gun owners want to keep their firearms.
However, even if this were to be effective, how would the government stop newly illegal guns from flooding into the country across America's massive, largely unguarded borders? A study published in 2013 by the Trans-Border Institute and Igarape Institute estimates an average of 253,000 firearms cross the U.S.-Mexico border every year. Earlier in 2017, the Canadian government reported it believed there are greater than 1 million prohibited guns in its country, and Canadian officials believe most of the firearms were brought there from the United States.
These figures prove that without massive border-security improvements — which, ironically, most gun-control advocates oppose — there's no way a substantial reduction in guns could ever occur.
It's also important to note that relative to other problems in our society of 320 million people, gun-related crime caused by Americans who legally own a firearm involved in the crime is virtually nonexistent. Of the 33,000 gun-related deaths that occur each year, two-thirds are suicides, and the majority of the remaining 11,000 deaths are gang-related and involve guns purchased illegally.
By contrast, 88,000 people die every year from alcohol-linked causes. That means if you exclude suicides, alcohol is 650 percent deadlier than guns (including gang-related crime) — and virtually no one is calling for another Prohibition, which, it's worth pointing out, was a complete disaster.
Instead of penalizing law-abiding gun owners who use their firearms to save thousands of people every year, lawmakers should work to reduce crime by improving economic growth and providing additional educational opportunities. Those are proven methods for limiting crime.
Justin Haskins is executive editor and a research fellow at the Heartland Institute (heartland.org), which is based in suburban Chicago. He can be contacted at Jhaskins@heartland.org. He wrote this originally for InsideSources.com.