Whenever there’s a violent crime like the one that occurred recently in Las Vegas, the conversation turns almost immediately to gun control—and how to prevent a tragedy like that from ever happening again.
Further regulation of guns might seem like the obvious answer. But looking at the statistics—and the number of gun-related crimes still happening regularly in the US—it’s obvious that gun control, at least as we know it right now, isn’t working.
The Second Amendment of the US Constitution, which gives Americans the right to bear arms, was ratified on December 15, 1791. At the time, it was mainly a way for early Americans to form militias and defend themselves and their families. These days the situation has changed, but many folks still rely on firearms as a method of protecting themselves and the people they care about.
In the modern world, there’s been a plethora of gun control legislation:
- The Child Safety Lock Act, enacted in 2005 to require a “secure gun storage or safety device”
- The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Improvement Amendments Act of 2007, enacted to encourage states to provide information to the federal government about people prohibited from purchasing firearms
- Several executive actions by President Obama, including an update and expansion of background checks, adding 200 ATF agents, increased mental healthcare funding, and more
You’d think these actions, and others like them, would cut down on gun-related crime.
But they haven’t.
According to a 2013 study by Mark Gius, “assault weapons bans did not significantly affect murder rates at the state level” and “states with restrictions on the carrying of concealed weapons had higher gun-related murders.” Thomas Sowell wrote in The Guardian that even though gun ownership doubled in the twentieth century, the murder rate decreased. And a study by James Wright and Peter Rossi found that 48% of convicted criminals surveyed said they avoided committing crimes when they knew the victim had a gun—the opposite of what gun control advocates believe.
Even in Chicago, where there are intensive bans on gun shops, shooting ranges, assault weapons, and high capacity magazines, there were still 2,089 shootings and at least 390 murders in 2014.
All these statistics don’t mean there should be no gun regulation. But they do point toward the idea that reactive policies don’t do much to actually fix the problems that inspire them.
And should the US decide to heavily regulate regardless, they might take a look at other countries that have done the same. Lithuania, for example, has the world’s lowest gun ownership rate (0.7 guns per 100 people), but its suicide rate was 45.06 per 100,000 people in 1999—the highest rate among the 71 countries surveyed. And Mexico, which has some of the strictest gun control laws in the world, has far more gun murders than the US (11,309 in Mexico compared to 9,146 in the US in 2012).
Violence like what happened in Las Vegas is incredibly tragic, and there’s no question we need to do what must be done to prevent it from happening again. But this event—and others like it—are a flimsy excuse when it comes to enacting legislation that doesn’t solve the problem…and in some cases exacerbates it.