Tuesday, June 15, 2021
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Gun control helps the bad guys

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DURING the fourth weekend of May this year, America experienced a surge of gun violence. CNN reported 12 mass shootings from Friday to Sunday across eight states, from New Jersey to Illinois. In response to these violent events, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said ‘certainly there is a gun problem’ in the country. Psaki’s diagnosis is incorrect; the rise in violence is due to what Heather Mac Donald has called ‘the Ferguson effect’.

A black youth, 18-year-old Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri, was  shot dead by a white police officer in 2014. This shooting led to an unsubstantiated charge of racism against the officer by everyone from the press to politicians. The ‘effect’ Mac Donald is referring to is law enforcement pulling back from proactive policing (also known as ‘broken windows policing’) to avoid being labelled racists by the court of public opinion and becoming a news story themselves. Criminals took advantage of this low police presence and have been wreaking havoc all over the country.    

The Ferguson effect has also played out in George Floyd’s home city of Minneapolis. Whether or not Floyd’s arresting officer should have been charged with murder or manslaughter is debatable, but accusations of racism on the part of the police at the scene lack evidence. Nonetheless, these charges were slung and broadcast all over the media and, as a result, the Twin City is seeing a homicide rate twice what it was last year. 

Psaki went on to say that the proper response to the violence is stricter gun laws. Wrong again: gun control laws unarm the good guys, not the bad guys. (By definition, criminals break laws.)  

John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center has been studying the effects of gun bans for decades. Lott’s research has found that all over the world, every time guns are banned, murder rates have gone up. He says, ‘You’d think out of randomness, one time when all guns have been banned you’d see the murder rates fall or stay the same, but every time they’ve gone up.’  

In 2020, homicides rose in the cities of Los Angeles, Chicago and New York by 21 per cent, 50 per cent and 41 per cent respectively. What do all these cities have in common? They are all in states with some of the strictest gun laws in the country. Couple that with the Ferguson effect, and an increase in gun violence is inevitable.  

The same logic plays out when considering mass shootings, the majority of which happen in gun-free zones. Why? Because the shooters realise no one will be able to shoot back, and this will give them a higher kill count. Some of the killers admit as much. For example, James Holmes, who shot dead 12 people and injured 70 at a Batman movie screening in Aurora, Colorado in 2012, stated in his diary that he considered attacking an airport but decided against it because of the ‘substantial security’.  

Between strict gun laws and the Ferguson effect, the US consists of an unarmed law-abiding citizenry with an emboldened criminal class. It’s no wonder gun violence and homicides are out of control in America. 

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Thomas Lane
Thomas Lane is a writer who lives and works in New York City.

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