Gun Ownership and Homicide Rates During Three Decades

Gun ownership rates have been falling over the past few decades. Fewer and fewer people are choosing to risk keeping a firearm at home. In fact, America is losing about a million gun owners every three years. What has happened to the homicide rate during the same time period? Of course, gun ownership is not the only factor which affects homicide so you would not expect to see a perfect correlation between these two variables. Nevertheless, there has also been a significant decrease in the homicide rate as can be seen from the chart above.



President Obama’s Proposals

President Obama has proposed that Congress close the private sale loophole, ban high capacity magazines, and ban military style assault weapons. The reasons for closing the private sale loophole seem obvious. Why make it easy for criminals to purchase a gun at a gun show or negotiate a gun sale online but make them pass a background check when buying from a licensed dealer? Why wouldn’t Congress want to close such a loophole if they truly are against gun trafficking?  It would be like allowing people to purchasing prescription drugs at a “drug show” without any proof a prescription.  Does Congress have the moral courage to stand up to the gun lobby?  The benefits of a ban on high capacity magazines also seem obvious.  Jared Lee Loughner was stopped when he had emptied his thirty round magazine and was attempting to reload. If he had had been stopped after emptying a ten round magazine there likely would have less victims. An average man can cover a distance of about twenty-one feet in 1.5 seconds so a lot can happen during the few seconds it takes a person to reload. The shooter could be tackled and disarmed as happened in Loughner’s case. John Hinckley fired all six shots in his revolver in less than two seconds when attempting to assassinate President Reagan. If he had had a gun with a thirty round magazine there likely would have been a lot more people killed and injured. A ban on assault weapons is probably the most controversial proposal. Some claim that these weapons are only cosmetically different from other semiautomatic weapons. Others point out that such features as pistol grips (which allow the shooter to stabilize the weapon during continuous fire) and barrel shrouds (which protect the shooter from a heated barrel due to repeated fire) make these weapons more dangerous.

America Moving Forward

The American people have chosen to reelect Obama. They have chosen to reelect someone who voiced support support for the assault weapons ban. They did not choose to elect the candidate who was endorsed by the National Rifle Association.  Data from the General Social Survey indicates that America is losing about one million gun owners every three years. The courts have upheld most gun laws when they’ve been challenged by pro-gun extremists in recent years. Diversity among voters is increasing. White, middle-aged males have traditionally been the portion of the population most opposed to strict regulation of firearms. African Americans and Latinos are playing a bigger role in elections.  America is moving forward. Progress, however, still needs to be made in many areas. Politicians need to develop the moral courage to stand up to the gun lobby and do what is best for those who elected them. Loopholes that allow criminals to easily obtain access to firearms need to be closed. The private sale loophole allows criminals to easily buy guns online or at gun shows without passing a background check. Such a loophole makes about as much sense as allowing people to buy prescription drugs outside of pharmacies without a prescription.  High capacity magazines should be restricted. Jared Lee Loughner opened fire outside of a Safeway supermarket in Tuscon, Arizona where a member of Congress was meeting with her constituents. He was stopped when he had emptied his thirty round magazine and was attempting to reload. If he had had only a ten round magazine there likely would have been a lot less victims. Loughner had an arrest record and a history of mental illness and drug abuse. He should have never been allowed to buy a gun in the first place.  Current gun laws need to be better enforced. The National Rifle Association has a history of lobbying Congress to decrease funding for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. The NRA gives lip service to the idea of enforcing the law while making it harder for law enforcement to do their job.

Another Defeat for the NRA

The constitutionality of a law which bans adults under twenty-one years of age from purchasing handguns from federally licensed dealers was recently challenged. A federal appeals court found that such a law is consistent with historically acceptable limitations on guns in the interest of public safety. Gun control has existed for over two hundred years in the United States. The Founding Fathers had little reservation about disarming groups of people who were unlikely to use gun responsibly or for the public good. Eighteenth century Americans in certain jurisdictions, for example, banned those who refused to swear an oath of loyalty to the state or nation from owning firearms. The court also concluded that strict scrutiny was unnecessary because the law does not burden the core of the right protected by the Second Amendment.