Freedomnomics

Article published Thursday, October 23, 2014, at The Advertiser.

John Lott and Kesten Green: Every time and place guns have been banned, murder rates have gone up

By John R. Lott, Jr.

SOUTH Australian District Court Judge Paul Muscat is getting national attention for his call to ban guns.

ďNo one should be able to keep guns at their home, many guns end up being stolen from licensed owners following break-ins to their homes, only for those guns to later end up on the streets and used in criminal activity,Ē he said.

But what evidence does the judge have that a gun ban would be beneficial? Can he name a single place anywhere in the world that has banned guns and seen its murder rate decline?

We canít. Every single time and place that guns have been banned murder rates go up ó often several-fold.

Gun bans in Chicago and Washington DC saw murder and violent crime soar. Gun control advocates argued that these werenít fair tests because criminals could get guns from places without bans. While that argument might explain why murder rates didnít fall, it canít explain why rates exploded in both places.

Around the world, even in places where entire countries have banned guns and island nations that donít have any neighbours that they can blame, murder rates have increased after bans. Take Irelandís 1972 ban or Jamaicaís 1975 ban, for example. In Ireland, murder rates more than tripled after the ban. In Jamaica, they went up sixfold.

Murder rates increase after gun bans for a simple reason. When guns are banned it is law-abiding citizens who turn in their guns, not criminals.

The Howard governmentís National Firearms Agreement, which forced the states to restrict firearm ownership and use, and the gun buyback in 1996 and 1997, donít offer any reason to think that Australia is an exception when it comes to gun bans.

The buyback resulted in more than 1 million firearms being handed in and destroyed, reducing gun ownership from 3.2 to 2.2 million guns. But since then the number of privately-owned guns has grown much faster than the population.

If gun control advocates were correct, Australia would have seen a sudden drop in murders, robberies, and firearm suicides as a result of the greatly diminished access to legal guns following the NFA, then a slow increase with the increase in the firearm ownership rate. No such thing occurred.

Many studies look at before-and-after averages, but are misleading due to the lack of context. Take firearm suicides. While it is true that firearm suicides did fall after the Howard buyback, suicides were falling for the entire prior decade.

Indeed, the rate of firearm suicides was falling at about the same rate after the Howard buyback as they had been before. Moreover, non-firearm suicides fell by virtually the same amount as firearm suicides.

The murder rate was flat for six years after the Howard buyback before it started to decline. Armed robberies increased dramatically for the five years after the buyback.

What is more, armed robberies then slowly fell back to the rate before the buyback at the same time as the number of legal firearms was increasing. The exact opposite, in other words, of what gun control advocates predict.

Police are arguably the single most important factor in reducing crime. But the police understand that they almost always arrive at the scene of a crime after it is committed.

Laws that take firearms away from law-abiding citizens leave them vulnerable to criminals, and increase crime.

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The End of Myth: An Interview with Dr. John Lott

Cold Comfort, Economist John Lott discusses the benefits of guns--and the hazards of pointing them out.

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Some data not found at www.johnlott.org:

Updated Media Analysis of Appalachian Law School Attack

Since the first news search was done additional news stories have been added to Nexis:

There are thus now 218 unique stories, and a total of 294 stories counting duplicates (the stories in yellow were duplicates): Excel file for general overview and specific stories. Explicit mentions of defensive gun use increase from 2 to 3 now.

Journal of Legal Studies paper on spoiled ballots during the 2000 Presidential Election

Data set from USA Today, STATA 7.0 data set

"Do" File for some of the basic regressions from the paper