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What Has Gun Control Done For Me Lately?
Many people hold strong opinions about the effectiveness of gun control, regardless of any facts about the impact of gun control. Both sides can cite anecdotal evidence of people being killed or lives being saved due to gun ownership or gun control.
We know that on a local level, gun control laws have a limited effect since guns can easily be brought from areas that have weak or non-existent gun control laws into areas that have tougher gun control laws.
So let’s look for a moment a some of the gun control laws that have been passed on a nation-wide basis.
The Brady Law And Assault Weapons Ban
In 1994 the president signed the Brady Law, which mandated a waiting period and background check before buying a gun, and the Assault weapons ban which prohibited the sale of military style semi-automatic guns.
A year after the Brady law went into effect, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) released a study of 30 law enforcement authorities across the country to evaluate the Brady Law. The survey indicated that about 3.5% of gun applicants were denied a gun, including 4,365 convicted felons, 945 fugitives, 649 illegal drug users, 97 people under indictment and 63 people who had restraining orders for stalking, harassment or threats of domestic violence.
Based on these numbers, the ATF says background checks likely stopped 70,000 convicted felons, drug offenders and fugitives from getting a gun over-the-counter. Many of these felons were re-arrested and put back behind bars due to the Brady Law’s waiting period and background check.
However, the long term effects of a gun law cannot be fully measured in such a short period of time. So let’s look at gun violence in America over a span of many years.
Based on statistics from the Uniform Crime Reports section of the FBI.gov web site, the nation-wide rate of murder climbed and fell throughout the years but the overall rate of violent crime generally increased from the 1970s to the early 1990s.
But you can clearly see that the rate of both murder and violent crime decreased dramatically and steadily throughout the 1990s.
So what happened in the 1990s that precipitated this steady drop in the crime rate? The Brady Law and the Assault Weapons ban became law in 1994. Every year after the passage of these laws, the national rate of violent crime and murder went down.
Coincidentally, during this same period, U.S. gun manufacturers complained that slumping gun sales was ruining their industry and that some manufacturers might go out of business.
This dramatic drop in crime continued for ten years and resulted in a rate of murder and violent crime that was lower than it had been in several decades. But you may have noticed that the declining crime rates seemed to level off around 2004 and even began inching up slightly. What could have stopped the trend in declining crime rates?
Well, during President Bush’s term in office, parts of the Brady law were weakened and the Assault Weapons Ban was allowed to expire in 2004.
Perhaps it would be an over-statement to insist that these results by themselves, scientifically prove a direct cause and effect relationship, but it would seem to be a an incredible coincidence that one of the few times we enact significant gun control legislation on a nation-wide basis, there is a prolonged drop in crime which does not level off until those laws are weakened or expire.
But it’s hard to deny that there is strong evidence that some gun control measures, enacted on a national level, significantly reduce crime while still allowing law-abiding citizens to own a gun.