Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN News

A Post-Heller, Post-McDonald Question:<br>Does an Increase in Handguns Increase Crime?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

In the mid-1970s, the Brady Campaign, a handgun ban activist group then known as the National Council to Control Handguns, said “There are now 40 million handguns . . . . [T]he number could build to 100 million by the year 2000. . . . The consequences can be terrible to imagine.”1 In 1979, the group, renamed Handgun Control, Inc., updated its prediction, saying, “over 50 million handguns flood the houses and streets of our nation. . . . If we continue at this pace, we will have equipped ourselves with more than 100 million handguns by the turn of the century.” Hoping to provoke the reader to answer “no,” it asked, “Will we be safer then?”2

“More guns = more crime” is an article of faith for some politicians too. In 2008, after the Supreme Court, in District of Columbia v. Heller, struck down that city’s handgun ban, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty said “introducing more handguns into the district will mean more handgun violence.”3

In 2010, after the Court ruled in McDonald v. Chicago that the Second Amendment protects a fundamental, individual right to arms nationwide, requiring Chicago and Oak Park, Illinois, to repeal their handgun bans, Chicago Alderwoman Freddrenna Lyle said, “If people bothered to read, as opposed to getting their news from the ‘Tea Party Times,’ they would understand and see that there is more harm done by the proliferation of handguns than there is benefit.”4  Discredited activist preacher Rev. Al Sharpton commented, “the last thing any city or town needs is more readily available guns.”5

We’ve all heard the fearful, naive, sarcastic rhetoric. Now here are some facts. Since 1980, as the number of handguns has increased 50 percent,6 the nation’s per capita rate of murder (the only violent crime most often committed with a firearm7) has decreased 52 percent.8           

Chicago imposed handgun registration in 1968 and retained it in an ordinance 9 imposed after the McDonald ruling. But, after the 1968 law went into effect, Chicago murders increased.10

 

The District of Columbia, which already required registration of handguns, banned handguns in 1976. By 1991, D.C.’s murder rate (the number of murders per 100,000 population) had increased 201 percent, while the U.S. rate had increased 12 percent.11

 

Chicago banned handguns in 1982. By 1994, its murder rate had increased 49 percent, while the U.S. rate had decreased one percent.12

   

Since 1991, when the U.S. murder rate peaked, the U.S. rate has decreased 50 percent  and Chicago’s has decreased 51 percent. D.C.’s has decreased 70 percent, including a 24 percent decrease from 2008 to 2009, following the repeal of its handgun ban.13

  

 

As these and other statistics14 show, having “more guns” doesn’t increase crime, and handgun bans and registration don’t reduce crime. Many factors determine crime rates in a given jurisdiction. According to the FBI, these factors include: population density and degree of urbanization; variations in composition of the population, particularly youth concentration; stability of the population with respect to residents’ mobility, commuting patterns, and transient factors; modes of transportation and highway system; economic conditions, including median income, poverty level, and job availability; cultural factors and educational, recreational, and religious characteristics; family conditions with respect to divorce and family cohesiveness; climate; effective strength of law enforcement agencies; administrative and investigative emphases of law enforcement; policies of other components of the criminal justice system (i.e., prosecutorial, judicial, correctional, and probational); citizens’ attitudes toward crime; and crime reporting practices of the citizenry.15


Of course, regardless of crime trends, people have a fundamental right to protect themselves. The Brady Campaign’s notions that “the only reason for guns in civilian hands is for sporting purposes,” and that self-defense “is not a federally guaranteed constitutional right”16—in addition to defying common sense—were rejected by the Supreme Court in its Heller decision, which declared that the Second Amendment guarantees “the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.” Based upon his study of National Crime Victimization Surveys, criminologist Gary Kleck concluded that “robbery and assault victims who used a gun to resist were less likely to be attacked or to suffer an injury than those who used any other methods of self-protection or those who did not resist at all” and that “defensive gun uses by crime victims are three to four times more common than crimes committed with guns. . . . [A]vailable evidence is consistent with the hypothesis that civilian ownership and defensive use of guns deter violent crime and reduce burglar-linked injuries.”17

 

Notes:
1. NCCH pamphlet, “There is now a nationwide, full-time, professional organization to battle the gun lobby!,” circa 1975.
2. HCI pamphlet, “By this time tomorrow, 24 Americans will be murdered,” circa 1980.
3. D.C. Mayor’s Office Press Release, “District Government Reacts to Heller Ruling,”June 26, 2008. For legal briefs and more information on the Heller decision, see http://www.nraila.org/heller/.
4. Editorial, the Chicago Sun-Times, “More guns in city not a good thing,” July 5, 2010.
5. Sharpton, “Supreme Court Contributes to Lethal Violence in America,” Wilmington Journal, July 7, 2010.
6. BATF, in Gary Kleck, Targeting Guns, Aldine de Gruyter, 1997, p. 97, and BATFE, Annual Firearms Manufacturers and Export Reports, www.atf.gov/statistics.
7. However, knives, bludgeons, and bare hands are all used to commit more murders than are “assault weapons” and other real and imagined sub-categories of guns often singled out by gun control supporters. For example, see www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2008/offenses/expanded_information/data/shrtable_08.html.
8. See http://bjsdata.ojp.usdoj.gov/dataonline/ for crime data from 1960 to 2008, and www.fbi.gov/ucr/ucr.htm#cius for the FBI’s annual reports from 1995 to 2008 and its preliminary estimates for 2009. Data for 1960 to 2008 are presented by NRA-ILA in convenient form at www.nraila.org/Issues/FactSheets/Read.aspx?ID=128.
9. http://mayor.cityofchicago.org/mayor/en/press_room/press_releases/2010/july_2010/0702_supreme_court.html.
10. FBI, Crime in the United States, annual reports. Hard copies on file with NRA-ILA.
11. Ibid. See also note 8.
12. Ibid. See also note 8.
13. Ibid. See also note 8.
14. See also Library of Congress, “Firearms Regulations in Various Foreign Countries,” May 1998, “[A]mong (the 27) countries surveyed, it is difficult to find a correlation between the existence of strict firearms regulations and a lower incidence of gun-related crimes.”
15. For example, see the FBI’s 2008 report at www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2008/about/variables_affecting_crime.html.
16. Sarah Brady in “Keeping the battle alive,” Tampa Tribune, 10/21/93; Dennis Henigan in USA Today, 11/20/91.
17. Note 6, Kleck, pp. 171, 184.

IN THIS ARTICLE
Handguns
TRENDING NOW
First, Carry No Gun: Police Chief Gets Inhospitable Reception at Texas Medical Clinic

News  

Friday, August 18, 2017

First, Carry No Gun: Police Chief Gets Inhospitable Reception at Texas Medical Clinic

We recently reported on claims that “gun safety advocates” in the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services have given a U.S. Marine Corps. veteran an untenable choice: custody of his grandson or his constitutional ...

Elizabeth Warren Urges Democrats to Champion Gun Control, Shut Down Debate

News  

Friday, August 18, 2017

Elizabeth Warren Urges Democrats to Champion Gun Control, Shut Down Debate

Just as many in the Democratic Party are seeking to moderate their message in order to once again compete as a national political party, some high-profile Democrats are urging the party to lurch further left ...

Oregon: Governor Signs Anti-Gun Bill into Law

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Oregon: Governor Signs Anti-Gun Bill into Law

Yesterday, Governor Kate Brown signed Senate Bill 719A.  Based on a California law enacted in 2014, SB 719A will create a so-called “Extreme Risk Protection Order” (ERPO) that could be obtained by a law enforcement ...

California: Ruling in NRA/CRPA Lawsuit Reigns in DOJ’s Misuse of DROS Fees

Friday, August 18, 2017

California: Ruling in NRA/CRPA Lawsuit Reigns in DOJ’s Misuse of DROS Fees

A California state court issued an important ruling in the NRA and CRPA supported case of Gentry v. Becerra, holding DOJ accountable for its historical mismanagement and misuse of DROS (dealer record of sale) account funds.

American Bar Association Continues to Attack Gun Owners, Due Process

News  

Second Amendment  

Friday, August 18, 2017

American Bar Association Continues to Attack Gun Owners, Due Process

The 2016 compilation of legislative policies of the ABA includes a raft of gun control proposals. In it, the ABA advocates for outmoded gun control measures, such as limits on the sale and possession of ...

Arizona Supreme Court Rebuffs Tucson’s Illegal Destruction of Firearms

News  

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Arizona Supreme Court Rebuffs Tucson’s Illegal Destruction of Firearms

On Thursday, the Arizona Supreme Court unanimously held that the state was within its authority to prohibit cities and counties from routinely destroying firearms obtained through forfeiture or as unclaimed property. State law holds that ...

Washington: Department of Labor &amp; Industries Targeting Shooting Ranges

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Washington: Department of Labor & Industries Targeting Shooting Ranges

At the request of Public Health, Seattle & King County, the Washington Department of Labor and Industries has released a “first draft” of a new statewide regulatory scheme targeting lead and lead exposure in the workplace. ...

Trump Administration Ends Another Obama-era Anti-Gun Policy

News  

Friday, August 18, 2017

Trump Administration Ends Another Obama-era Anti-Gun Policy

Justice Department to End ‘Operation Choke Point’

Justice Department Terminates and Repudiates Operation Choke Point

News  

Friday, August 18, 2017

Justice Department Terminates and Repudiates Operation Choke Point

Current Justice Department leadership and Boyd should be commended for their forceful statement on this matter. This unequivocal repudiation of Operation Choke Point should make a return to such political persecution unpalatable for all but ...

Stossel Report Reinforces Urgent Need for Congressional Action

Second Amendment  

Gun Laws  

News  

Friday, August 11, 2017

Stossel Report Reinforces Urgent Need for Congressional Action

Award-winning journalist John Stossel published a report this week that provides a timely reminder that – nearly a decade after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller – law abiding gun ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -
NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.