Suppose you or your family are being stalked by a criminal who intends to harm you. Would you feel safer putting a sign in front of your home saying "This home is a gun-free zone"? Would it frighten criminals away?
Most people understand that guns deter criminals. But, despite strong opposition from the Illinois State Police, Democrat Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan seems determined to publicly identify gun and non-gun owners across the state. For some unknown reason, The Associated Press made a Freedom of Information Act request to the police.
One would think that people in Illinois of all places would understand this problem. Chicago’s crime statistics haven’t quite gone the way gun control advocates have predicted. Not only did Chicago murder and violent crime rates soar after its handgun ban went into effect in late 1982, but the reverse has happened since the Supreme Court struck down that law last June.
Handgun permits started being issued in July, and murders in Chicago have declined. During the first 6 months of 2010, Chicago’s murders were up 5 percent from the same period the previous year. Things were so bad that members of the state legislature suggested that the National Guard be dispatched to Chicago to curb the violence. But, after the Supreme Court decision, the last six months of the year saw murders fall by 14 percent compared to the same months the previous year.
But the evidence goes well beyond that. State laws requiring that people lock up their guns results in criminals being more likely to invade people's homes while the residents are still inside, but it also means that the criminals are more likely to be successful in committing crime.
Internationally, countries with the lowest rates of gun ownership have not only higher burglary rates, but they also have the highest rate of burglaries that occur while the residents are at home. Surveys of convicted burglars find burglaries in low gun ownership countries finds that they don't bother spending much time checking to see if the residents are in the home prior to breaking in because they have little to fear from the residents. By contrast, American burglars say that their number one fear of breaking into a home with people in it is that they worry about being shot.
Possibly politicians such as Lisa Madigan think that they are just demonizing and trying to embarrass gun owners. But gun-free zones are a magnet for violence and crime, and her approach risks public safety.
John R. Lott, Jr. is a FOXNews.com contributor. He is an economist and author of the just released revised edition of "More Guns, Less Crime" (University of Chicago Press, 2010).