Gun Control and Gun Crime are Different
We all know how it goes by now. There’s a mass shooting somewhere — as was recently the case in New Zealand — and the media fills up with stricter gun control rhetoric. On the face of it, the gun-banners’ argument makes sense; if someone isn’t allowed to buy a gun, they can’t use it to commit a crime. The real world just isn’t that simple, though, and the facts show that gun control and gun crime aren’t really that connected. Here’s how it works in reality.
The Current Gun Control Situation in NZ
To own a gun in New Zealand, you need a firearms license issued by the police — and it’s up to you to convince the police you should have one. You’ll need to go through a thorough background check, attend a safety program and pass a test, provide two referees to vouch for you and show that you have secure storage for your guns.
If you have a criminal record, drug or alcohol problems, certain mental illnesses or a history of domestic abuse, you probably won’t get a license. Even if you do get one, you’ll need extra checks to own more tightly regulated types of guns — handguns and semi-automatic rifles, for example. How lax does all this sound?
The thing is, New Zealand doesn’t have lax gun laws, despite arguments to the contrary that point to “lax gun laws” being the cause of the most recent shooting. They’re being tightened up even more now, but pre-Christchurch they were still a lot stricter than anything that’s ever likely to get through the United States Congress. And the shooting at Christchurch still happened.
Chicago and Houston
We don’t need to go to New Zealand for an example of how gun control doesn’t stop gun crime, though; there are plenty right here in the US. Let’s take a look at two similar cities and see how gun control has affected them.
Chicago and Houston are pretty similar cities in many ways. They’re about the same size — 2.7 million people in Chicago, 2.15 million in Houston. They’re roughly equal in wealth — the average Houston household earns $37,000 a year, while the average in Chicago is $38,600. The racial mix is fairly close, too. For two cities that are so far apart, they’re a near perfect match. Except in one important way — gun control.
Despite what some say, Chicago doesn’t have the toughest gun laws in the US. California’s regulations are a lot tougher, for example. Nevertheless, by US standards The Windy City is a difficult place to buy a gun. You can’t buy a so-called “assault weapon,” for example, so most popular semi-automatic sporting rifles are banned. You need a license or permit to buy any gun, and there’s a mandatory waiting period.
Houston couldn’t be more different. It’s an open-carry city, and many people exercise that right. There are no restrictions on what kind of guns you can own beyond the federal ones and no extra obstacles to buying one. So going by all the rules of gun control we’d expect Houston to have a lot more gun crime than Chicago, right?
Wrong. In the average year, Houston has around 200 homicides, for a rate of 9.6 homicides per 100,000 people. That’s high, but what’s Chicago’s like? Oops — about 500 homicides per year, or 18.4 per 100,000 people. So you’re almost twice as likely to be murdered in Chicago as compared to Houston.
Whatever gun control advocates say, it’s not making Chicago a safer place. In fact, Chicago is awash in guns. It’s just mostly criminals who have them. There’s one simple reason for this: criminals don’t obey laws. All that the city’s strict anti-gun regulations have achieved is to make it harder for law-abiding citizens to protect themselves. Is that why it’s so much more dangerous than Houston? Well, who knows. The thing is, it’s hard to think of anything else that would account for the difference unless, like some amateur comedians have done, you blame the colder weather.