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Why Gun Bans Still Don't Work

Yesterday's wild shooting spree at the University of Texas fortunately ended without anyone being hurt before the gunman shot himself.  Naturally, the incident has yet again raised the question over gun bans, such as the ban currently in effect at the University of Texas.  

Do they actually do more harm than good?

Gun bans as the solution to gun violence has popped up again, covering different areas.  It would have been nice if such bans had stopped criminals from using guns.  But, alas, the results are invariably the same, whether the ban is put in place for college campuses, cities, or entire nations: gun bans disarm the law-abiding, not criminals.  Instead of making victims safer, they make criminals safer.

Take a simple example. Suppose your family is being stalked by a criminal who intends on harming them. Would you feel safer putting up a sign in front of your home with the message: "This Home is a Gun-Free Zone"?  Probably not.  The sign would only tell criminals that they would meet little resistance if they attacked.  But in effect, we have put these signs on everything from schools to a couple of cities.

With the consistent failures of gun bans in D.C. and Chicago to protect public safety, one would think that people would stop pushing for gun bans.  Murder rates in both places soared after bans were imposed. The just-released FBI crime numbers for 2009 show that murders and other violent crime rates plummeted after the Supreme Court struck down D.C.'s gunlock and handgun ban law in 2008.  D.C.'s murder rate fell by an astounding 23 percent last year, about three times the national drop in murder rates as well as for cities of similar size. The drop in murder and other violent crime has continued this year, with the numbers available through July showing a total drop in murders of about 36 percent over two years.

 

Gun control proponents claim that those bans weren't fair tests because guns were still available in other parts of the country and thus criminals could bring guns into D.C. and Chicago.  But the failure of bans occurs even when entire nations adopt them.  Even island nations, such as Ireland, Jamaica, or England and Wales, who can't blame some neighboring country for its supply of illegal guns, have seen increases in murder rates. 

The debate over concealed handguns has been similar, raising the question of whether guns should be limited to people's homes.  Fears about accidents and rampages by permit holders, and blood running in the streets however never materialized where concealed carry has been allowed. Individuals who have gone through the process to get a permit have turned out to be extremely law-abiding, losing their permits for firearm violations at just hundredths or even thousandths of one percent.  Refereed academic studies by economists and criminologists alike have consistently demonstrated that these predictions never occurred for crime either.

The University of Texas attack yesterday could easily have ended up with innocent victims being killed or injured. These deranged attackers typically want to commit suicide in a way that will gain them the most attention, and they do that my causing as much violence as possible before they die.  

Bill Landes and I have examined all the multiple-victim public shootings with two or more victims in the United States from 1977 to 1999. We found that when states passed right-to-carry laws, these attacks fell by an astounding 60 percent. Deaths and injuries from multiple-victim public shootings fell on average by 78 percent. And to the extent that these attacks still occur in states with right-to-carry laws, they overwhelming occur in those few places where concealed handguns are not allowed. Gun free zones served as magnets for these attacks.

The desire to ban guns is understandable, but it is dangerous, too.  If we won't hang "Gun-Free Zone" signs around our homes, let's not hang them around our schools or other places we care about either.

John R. Lott, Jr. is a columnist for FoxNews.com. He is an economist and was formerly chief economist at the United States Sentencing Commission. Lott is also a leading expert on guns and op-eds on that issue are done in conjunction with the Crime Prevention Research Center. He is the author of eight books including "More Guns, Less Crime." His latest book is "Dumbing Down the Courts: How Politics Keeps the Smartest Judges Off the Bench" Bascom Hill Publishing Group (September 17, 2013). Follow him on Twitter@johnrlottjr.