Freedomnomics

Article published Thursday, February 26, 2009, at Fox News.

A New Assault Weapons Ban Will Not Reduce Crime In This Country

By John R. Lott, Jr.

It is pretty hard to seriously argue that a new so-called “assault weapons” ban would reduce crime in the United States. Even research done for the Clinton Administration couldn’t find that the federal assault weapons ban reduced crime.

There are no academic studies by economists or criminologist that find the original federal assault weapons ban reduced murder or violent crime generally. There is no evidence that the state assault weapons bans reduced murder or violent crime rates – even some evidence that they caused murder to rise slightly. Since the federal ban sunset in September 2004, murder and overall violent crime rates have remained virtually unchanged.

In fact, when the assault weapon's ban sunset in September 2004 there was no explosion of murder and bloodshed as gun control advocates feared. Immediately after the law expired murder rates fell and they fell more in the states without state assault weapon bans than the states with them.

But yesterday, Eric Holder, the new U.S. Attorney General, offered a new justification: “I think that will have a positive impact in Mexico, at a minimum.”

Mexico does have a horrible drug gang problem. Despite Mexico’s strenuous efforts, they haven’t been able to stop the flow of drugs into their country on their way to the United States.

The problem is that even if all guns disappeared in the United States, there is no more reason to expect the flow of guns to stop to Mexico than there is to believe that you could stop the flow drugs. The drugs that these gangs sell are extremely valuable. They want to protect these drugs not only from the Mexican government, but also from other gangs. Just as these gangs have a huge incentive to smuggle in guns, they have a huge incentive to smuggle in the guns used to protect them.

Even island nations – such as Ireland, Jamaica, and the UK -- that can’t even remotely blame their crime problems on the United States have seen large increases in murder rates after gun bans at least in part because of increased drug gang violence.

If Holder thinks that it is so easy to control drug gang’s access to guns, one way to show it is by proving that he can stop drug gang’s access to drugs. No one should hold their breath for him to accomplish that task.

*John Lott is the author of Freedomnomics and a senior research scientist at the University of Maryland.

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