Gun Control and Crime Rates: A Comparative Study

7 July 2016

Gun control has been an issue in the United States of America since it’s founding in 1776. After all, the first shots that were fired in the Revolutionary War at Lexington and Concord were an effort by the American colonists to keep the British army from taking the guns from the colonial armory. Even after gaining freedom from British control, the American people were obviously still concerned about their rights to own guns. This can be seen in the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution which says “… the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. ” Owning guns has been a staple of the conservative portion of America.

More recently however, many have been clamoring for more restrictive gun laws. These calls for increased regulation on guns have been from those who perceive guns and gun-owners as potential threats to peace. The pro-gun crowd responds by emphatically stating that they have a right to own guns. With every mass shooting and tragedy that occurs both sides get louder and louder. The debate rages on and on. It is important to ask several questions in this debate. Does gun ownership deter crime or increase crime? Do states with a higher gun-ownership rate have a lower crime-rate or is it the opposite?

Gun Control and Crime Rates: A Comparative Study Essay Example

Do gun control law have an affect on crime rates? If so, how long does it take a gun control law to affect the rate of crime? This article aims to answer those questions. The ultimate purpose of this article is to prove that states with looser gun control laws have a lower crime rate and violent crime rate than those with more restrictive gun control laws. A second purpose of this paper is to look at the theory of why this may be the case. The theory that is being proposed herein, is that states who make it easier for people to own guns legally are states with lower crime rates.

To put it simply, the more law-abiding citizens with guns, the less crime that occurs. Literature Review Before quoting stats and citing numbers it is essential to look at what both sides are saying about the current gun-control controversy. It is impossible to get an accurate look at this debate without fairly considering both sides. There have been an inordinate amount of gun related articles published in the last decade or so. That being said it’s not hard to distinguish the two side in this debate. On one side there are the traditional conservatives who are in favor of little to no gun-control.

On the other side are those who favor a stricter gun control policy. Let us first consider those who speak in favor of additional gun-control laws. The predominant theory among those who hold this point of view is that more guns equals more violence. Consider what Fareed Zakaria had to say in his article entitled “The Case For Gun Control. ” “Gun violence in America is off the chart compared with every other country on the planet. ” Zakaria says. He goes on to compare the United States to a few other countries and then finishes the paragraph by stating “…

We have many, many more guns. ” Zakaria is not the only person that holds these sentiments. U. S Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has had harsh words for assault weapons in the past. Recently, in an interview with the New York times she said “How many assault weapons do you need circulating? To have these mass killings is such a blight on everything that America stands for. ” By “mass killings” Feinstein is referring to recent tragedies such as the Newtown, CT, shooting which claimed the lives of twenty-six and the Aurora, CO, shooting which claimed twelve.

Those who favor tighten gun control point to these examples as proof that more guns makes for more violence and death. Many of them also argue that it is possible for these murderers to go on these deadly rampages because it is too easy for them to get their hands on high-powered guns. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) said in an article in the Junior Scholastic Journal that, “It’s too easy for criminals, the mentally unstable, and even terrorists to buy dangerous weapons. ” He went on to advocate tighter controls on prospective gun-buyers and more thorough background checks.

He concluded by saying “People shouldn’t have to live in fear of guns. That’s why I want to make it harder for dangerous people to get hold of them. ” Many of those who advocate for more gun-control are not actively trying to restrict the rights of the people. Oftentimes they are just trying to do what they think is best for the nation and the people as a whole. The other side of the aisle have arguments that are equally strong. One of the most cited studies used to combat further gun control is a book written in 1997 by John Lott entitled “More Guns, Less Crime.

” Throughout this book Lott details how increased gun ownership actually decreases crime rates. He starts by giving examples of how gun-owners used concealed handguns to deter criminals from potentially harming them or their families. He goes on to explain that if criminals know that there may be a cost involved with an attempted crime, then the criminal is much less likely to engage in that criminal activity. Several other conservative authors have further extrapolated Lott’s study and agreed with his analysis.

As of late, many conservative authors, scholars and columnists have spoken out against increased gun control laws that have resulted because of mass shootings. Erich Pratt, a columnist for U. S News and World Report had this to say, “The president and members of Congress are pouncing on the recent shooting in Connecticut and are trying to exploit it for political gain. Sadly, if they get their way, we will see even more of these horrific tragedies. ” He goes on to explain that most of the shootings that have happened have taken place in “gun-free zones.

” He points out that criminals who want to break the law do not care about signs that tell them that they cannot have guns in a specified areas. The only people who are restricted are law-abiding citizens. He then goes on to give examples of people who stopped potential mass shootings with weapons of their own. Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association echoes Pratt. “Gun-control laws have never, and can never, reduce violent crime. “That’s because anti-gun laws don’t affect criminals, who ignore all laws.

Government studies prove it, finding that most criminals get guns through theft or the black market, where gun laws have no effect” says Lapierre in an article published in the New York Times Upfront. The conservative right seems to be quite united in their stand against more gun control. Beyond the rhetoric that both sides hurl at each other, there have been several great studies that have been conducted on the subject of gun control and crime. Specifically, there are two studies, one by the University of Harvard, called Would Banning Firearms Reduce Murder and Suicide?

Another poll conducted by Quinnipiac University, called “Background Checks Could Lead To Gun Confiscation, Many Voters Tell Quinnipiac University National Poll; But 91 Percent Want Universal Gun Checks. ” The study produced by Harvard, which was published in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, is actually a European study that compares several different countries and their varying levels of gun control. After analyzing the gun laws in each country the study takes a look at the crime-rate in each country.

The study looks at a total of eighteen countries. The results were interesting. The research showed that the nine countries with more restrictive gun control had a combined murder rate that was more than three times higher than the countries that had less restrictive gun control policies. The study’s authors write, “If the mantra ‘more guns equal more death and fewer guns equal less death’ were true, broad cross-national comparisons should show that nations with higher gun ownership per capita consistently have more death.

Nations with higher gun ownership rates, however, do not have higher murder or suicide rates than those with lower gun ownership. Indeed many high gun ownership nations have much lower murder rates. ” The poll that was conducted by Quinnipiac University is a little different. Qunnipiac sent out several questions regarding gun control and various laws that could be passed or bans that could be introduced. The poll shows that most Americans favor stricter gun control. Specifically, the results show that 91% of Americans favor universal background checks before purchasing guns of any type.

This is interesting considering that recently, American voters said, by a margin of 48%-38% (with the rate among gun owners sitting a a much higher 53%-34%), that the government could use extensive background checks to repossess legally owned and acquired guns. Still, the study shows that Americans do generally support more restrictive gun control, including a ban on high capacity magazines and a ban on all assault weapons. Data And Methods Before numbers can be accurately looked at, it is important to define the terms that will be used. When defining gun control The Brady Campaign is one of the most accurate measures of gun control by state.

Every year The Brady Campaign gives every state a scorecard. The scale on the scorecard is 0-100. Zero being the least restrictive gun control measures and one hundred being the most restrictive. Points can be scored in several different categories. The categories are: gun dealer regulations, record retention, crime gun identification, owner must report lost/stolen guns, background checks, permit to purchase, ammunition regulation, assault weapons ban, large capacity magazine ban, child safety, guns in public places and local control, CCW discretion, no state preemption, and finally, a limit on bulk purchases.

These will be the categories that will be considered when comparing the levels of different state’s gun control policies. Another set of terms that must be defined and operationalized is crime-rate. This study will compare not only the overall crime-rate of each of the states, but also the violent crime-rate. These statistics will pulled from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI takes these statistics every year and publishes them for the public to see. The FBI uses the Uniform Crime Reporting Program (UCR) to obtain their information on crime.

The UCR is a collection of over 18,000 different city, university/college, county, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement agencies all voluntarily reporting crime to the program. Crime information can be submitted either to the state branch of UCR or to the federal UCR. In this particular study statistics from the year 2010 will be used. Lastly, population must be defined. In this study the population of each state will be the population that was measured in 2010 by the United States Census Bureau. This is to be consistent with the crime-rate statistics, which, as has already been mentioned, are the numbers from 2010.

Also, 2010 is the most recent country-wide census that has been conducted by the government. Research Design A total of six states will be compared in this study. The states will be divided up into three different side-by-side comparisons. The states that will be studied are: Indiana, Illinois, New Jersey, Delaware, Texas and California. Indiana will be compared to Illinois, New Jersey to Delaware and California to Texas. These states were chosen and pair together for three main reasons. First, the gun control laws of the states in each comparison are very different.

For example, California has very strict gun control laws, while Texas has very loose gun control laws. Second, geographical proximity. Illinois and Indiana are neighbors in the Mid-West. New Jersey and Delaware border each other on the East Coast and California and Texas are relatively close in the West. Texas and California also both share a border with Mexico which could factor into the crime-rate. Finally, varying sizes, location, population and laws. In order for this study to be as accurate as possible states of different size, geographical location, total population and specific laws must be measured.

For example, Illinois has moderate gun control laws, but they are not nearly as restrictive as California’s, at the same time they are not nearly as loose as Indiana’s. The geography has been explained, but to further the point, different areas of the United States have different sub-cultures, by looking at several different states we can see how gun control works in these different sub-cultures. Also, the variable of population comes into play. Each of these states has a different level of population and population density. Again, by looking at varying levels of population we can see how different levels of gun control affect each state.

Obviously states with a much higher population will have more total crimes simply for the fact that it has more people. This will be controlled by measuring the average number of crimes committed per 100,000 persons. The varying levels of gun control laws that these states have will be compared and analyzed. Then, the crime-rates and violent crime-rates will be compared and analyzed. The study will be testing to see if there is any correlation between the individual state’s gun laws and its crime rate. A second item that will be considered is the effect that gun control laws have had in the states.

The crime rate in each state will be measured and compared for the last ten years the states that have more gun laws this is to see if the gun control legislation has any measurable affect on the state crime-rate. For states that have very loose gun control laws this is done to see if crime was trending down anyway. Main Body (Research) First, let’s consider the levels of gun control laws in each of the states that will be compared. The study specifically chose six states that did not have a zero according to The Brady Campaign. Below is visual representation of each state’s gun control score according to The Brady Campaign.

As can be seen Indiana has a score of 4, which is being compared to Illinois’ score of 35. Delaware has a 13 which is being compared to New Jersey’s 72. Finally, California comes in with a nation-high score of 81 which is being compared to Texas’ score of only 4. Referring to the different categories that are scored on pages 5 and 6. Both California and New Jersey score at least some points in all categories, Illinois scores in about half of the categories. While Indiana, Texas and Delaware only score in the two most basic categories; Gun Dealer Registration, and Guns In Public Places and Local Control categories.

Now that the level of gun control in each state is known, we can now begin the side-by side comparisons. First, let’s consider the small states, New Jersey and Delaware. In 2010 Delaware had a population of 897,934 according to the U. S Census Bureau. That same year Delaware reported an overall crime-rate of 4,077. 2 crimes per 100,000 persons and a violent crime rate of 620. 9 crimes per 100,000 people. Remember that Delaware had the relatively low score of 13 according to The Brady Campaign. In 2010 New Jersey reported a total population of 8,791,894.

That same year New Jersey reported an overall crime rate of 2387.6 crimes per 100,000 persons and a violent crime rate of 307. 7 crimes per 100,000 persons. Again, remember that New Jersey had the high score of 72 on The Brady Campaign scorecard. Another factor that should be taken into account is the fact that New Jersey has a much higher population than Delaware. This reduces the affect that each crime has on the rate per 100,000. Delaware has a much smaller population, so each crime has a significantly higher affect on the crime-rate per 100,000 inhabitants. If you were to look at the number of crimes committed you would see that Delaware reported just 36,686 total crimes compared to New Jersey’s 210,097.

Again this is because of the population difference, but since Delaware’s total population is so small compared to New Jersey’s it was important to note. It is also important to note that New Jersey has a much higher percentage of its population in a metropolitan area than Delaware does. In fact, the FBI reported that, technically, 100% of New Jersey’s population resides in a metropolitan area. Below is a visual representation of the trend of the violent crime-rate per 100,000 persons in both New Jersey and Delaware over the last ten years.

Now let’s take a look at the second side-by-side comparison. The more medium-sized, mid-western states Indiana and Illinois. In 2010 Indiana had a population of 6,483,802 people according to the U. S Census Bureau. That same year Indiana reported an overall crime-rate of 3,393. 5 crimes per 100,000 persons and a violent crime-rate of 323. 3 crimes per 100,000 persons. Also in 2010, Illinois had a population of 12,830,632 people. In 2010 Illinois reported an overall crime-rate of 3,118. 1 crimes per 100,000 persons and a violent crime-rate of 444. 9 crimes per persons.

It is important to note that, while Indiana’s total crime-rate is higher than that of Illinois, Illinois’ violent crime-rate is substantially higher than Indiana’s. This discrepancy is because Indiana has a higher property crime rate than Illinois, but Illinois has a higher murder rate and aggravated assault rate. Below is a visual representation of the trend of the violent crime-rate per 100,000 persons in both Indiana and Illinois over the last ten years. Last, but not least, let us consider the final side-by-side comparison of this study.

The final comparison will be between the two larger, western states, California and Texas. Before looking at the numbers from each state it is important to remember two things. First, both of these states border Mexico. Because of the recent problems with illegal immigration and drug trade, the crime rates of both states may be slightly inflated. Second, these two states have distinctly different sub-cultures. California is distinctly more liberal and Texas has a much more independent, conservative flavor. Now, to the numbers. In 2010 California had a population of 37,253,956 people according to the U. S Census Bureau.

That same year California reported an overall crime-rate of 3,069. 5 crimes per 100,000 persons and a violent crime-rate of 439. 6 crimes per 100,000 persons. In 2010 Texas had a population of 25,145,561 according to the U. S Census Bureau. Also in 2010 Texas reported an overall crime-rate of 4,215. 2 crimes per 100,000 persons and a violent crime-rate of 448. 4 crimes per 100,000 persons. Below is a visual representation of the trend of the violent crime-rate per 100,000 persons in both California and Texas over the last ten years.

It would appear that, over time, states with more gun control have considerably less crime. It would be worth someone’s time in the future to look at individual cities in each state and include additional controls for population and population density. Also, it may be interesting to see the murder rate for each state in comparison to the gun laws. After examining the results there are a few conclusions that can be made. First of all, it is easy to see that my initial hypotheses were mostly wrong. The only state with loose gun control that had a violent crime-rate lower than the state with tighter gun control was Indiana.

Even then, Illinois’ violent crime-rate was trending down and was rapidly catching up to Indiana’s. Not only that, but Indiana’s overall crime-rate was higher than Illinois’. All of the states that had more restrictive gun control laws showed a downward trend in violent crime over the given ten-year span. Texas also showed a consistent downward trend, but both Indiana and Delaware fluctuated to some extent. It is worth noting that all of the states with more gun laws had a higher population than those with fewer gun laws. Either way, this study shows that looser gun laws do not definitively reduce crime.

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