John Lott Jr.: There's No Evidence That Banning Guns Cuts Crime
John R. Lott Jr., a senior research scientist at the University of Maryland, recently wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia had 406 homicides in 2007, and, at 28 per 100,000 people, it also had the highest murder rate of any major city in the United States. No wonder Philadelphians want things changed.
Recently, the city focused on a new tragedy, the murder of a 12-year police veteran and father of three, Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski, by three bank robbers with long, violent criminal records.
To Gov. Rendell, Mayor Nutter, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, and freshman U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, the solution is simple: more gun control. After pushes failed for new state and local laws, last Thursday these four politicians announced that the solution to Philadelphia's problems was re-enacting the Federal Assault Weapons Ban.
They focused on the Chinese SKS rifle used to shoot Liczbinski five times. Rendell claims that "the only people who should have weapons like this is the police and the military." Some are calling the SKS an "assault weapon," although it is not so defined in any federal law and is not banned as such. And although the phrase assault weapon conjures up images of the rapid-fire machine guns used by the military, the SKS rifle is not a machine gun, instead functioning the same way as any semiautomatic hunting rifle. It fires a bullet similar to (indeed, slightly less powerful than) those fired from deer-hunting rifles, with the exact same rapidity.
This debate might make more sense if there were some evidence that the Federal Assault Weapons Ban lowered crime rates, but all the published academic studies by criminologists and economists find that neither the initial ban in 1994 nor its sun-setting in 2004 changed rates of murder or other violent crimes. Similarly, there is no evidence that state bans have mattered.
John Lott (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the author of "More Guns, Less Crime" and "The Bias Against Guns."