Thursday, April 24, 2008

Steve Chapman on gun control

I found his Tribune column via Instapundit today. As I hear about the continuing stories about shootings in Chicago between the deaths of public school students and the shootings that occurred in the city over the weekend it's obvious that we might hear that more gun control is the answer. Well Chapman questions that premise especially since the new police superintendent is attempting to parrot that line himself.
The recent spate of killings gives a misleading impression. Since the peak years of the early 1990s, the number of murders in Chicago has fallen by more than half. In the first three months of this year, homicides were down by 1.1 percent. No one would describe the current murder rate as acceptable, but the city has made huge progress.

It has done so despite the alleged problem cited by Weis, which is the availability of guns, and particularly one type of gun. "There are just too many weapons here," he declared at a Sunday news conference. "Why in the world do we allow citizens to own assault rifles?"

Actually, in Chicago, "we" don't allow citizens to own assault rifles. Elsewhere, they are allowed for the same reason other firearms are permitted. The gun Weis villainized is a type of semiautomatic that has a fearsome military appearance but is functionally identical to many legal sporting arms.

And its bark is worse than its bite. As of March 31, there had been 87 homicides in the city. When I asked the Chicago Police Department how many of the murders are known to have involved assault rifles, the answer came back: One.

As it happens, we already have ample experience with laws against these guns. From 1994 to 2004, their manufacture and sale were banned under federal law.

Yet nationwide, the number of murders committed with rifles and shotguns began falling three years before the law was enacted.

It's true those gun homicides also fell while the law was in effect. Does that prove the value of the ban? Not exactly, since stabbing deaths fell even faster, as did murders involving crowbars, baseball bats and other blunt objects. Obviously other factors were behind the improvement.

The irrelevance of the law was plain to see. In 2004, Tom Diaz, an official of the pro-gun-control Violence Policy Center, said, "If the existing assault weapons ban expires, I personally do not believe it will make one whit of difference" in curbing gun violence.

No surprise there. Anyone with criminal intent had plenty of deadly options at hand. The so-called assault weapons, contrary to what you might assume, were no more powerful or lethal than other, permitted guns. Not only that, but criminals, the people most likely to commit violent crimes, were completely unaffected by the ban—for the simple reason that they are not allowed to buy or own guns of any kind.

As Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck notes, most criminals arm themselves by stealing guns or buying guns stolen by someone else. So new restrictions don't make much difference to them. The federal ban was a classic illustration of how gun control works. Law-abiding people who rarely misuse their guns were deprived of options. Ex-cons went on as before.
All too often at least when things like this occur the easy answer for many is to call for more gun control. There's a disconnect here because obvious gun control isn't answer if all you're doing is disarming law-abiding citizen. Criminals aren't going to give up using guns because it's illegal because they already have no intentions of following the law.

Of course a gun control proponent might argue that well if we catch a criminal with a gun in committing a crime then the penalty will be stiffer. I suppose that would be reasonable however there are just those politicians who won't make a distinction between a criminal with a firearm vs. a law-abiding citizen with firearms. Perhaps with the idea that some just doesn't think that people should own guns, anybody.

Of course for some it doesn't matter that the police don't come when you need them. That's not to say allowing a person to arm themselves at the very least in their home is the end all be all for burglaries or intrusions into the home. At the same time a gun came in good handy when it comes to defending your property. Like I said some won't see that and instead will just say guns are dangerous and they could hurt someone especially your children and people shouldn't be allowed to own a gun.

BTW, I heard about this very tragic story on the south side yesterday as well. Five people were shot in a house. Here's a write-up and I'll embed an AP video I saw last night...

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