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What Has Gun Control Done For Me Lately?

Updated on April 4, 2011

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 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.

U.S. National Murder Rate Per 100,000 People From 1974 to 2009
U.S. National Murder Rate Per 100,000 People From 1974 to 2009
U.S. National Rate of Violent Crime Per 100,000 People From 1974 to 2009
U.S. National Rate of Violent Crime Per 100,000 People From 1974 to 2009

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.


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    • Jack Burton profile image

      Jack Burton 6 years ago from The Midwest

      Mimi sez guns don't belong in public. So does the social deviant watching the supermarket clerk walk across the dark parking lot to her car at midnight.

      According to the desires of Mimi, innocent people should have be forced to surrender instead of facing down the social deviant. Got that?

      If you are minding your own business and are assaulted or threatened by a violent criminal Mimi and the people-control, anti-freedom crowd wants the onus to be on you to surrender, or flee, or retreat, or have your body violated, or even die -- anything EXCEPT stand your ground with a firearm.

      How morally and intellectually backwards can these folks be to adopt such an indefensible position? The duty and perfect right of a law-abiding citizen is to defend themselves with deadly force if need be against criminals. That is the essence of the disagreement between the opposing sides on gun control.

      Which side better protects you and your family?

    • Jack Burton profile image

      Jack Burton 6 years ago from The Midwest

      I wonder just what other parts of the Constitution that Fay believes are outdated and we can just toss away. Since the founding fathers didn't know about terrorist nukes and WMD that can kill millions of Americans in moments that pretty much means that the 1st, the 4th, the 5th and the 8th Amendment are also a "a vestige of colonial times". Let's be consistent and honest, Fay.

    • Jack Burton profile image

      Jack Burton 6 years ago from The Midwest

      Well, one can go to my hubs and check out the "Assault Weapons: Evil Black Rifles (or perhaps not)" hub to learn that practically everything you know about "assault weapons" is wrong. Not just a little wrong... but a lot wrong.

      And "cop killer" bullets are a myth... sorta like elves and hobbits. But as long as people are willing to comment on subjects of which they have no knowledge the myth will continue.

    • chefsref profile image

      Lee Raynor 6 years ago from Citra Florida

      I support the right to own guns and I own several which I inherited from my hunter father. I don't carry one around with me and the "need" for assault weapons and "cop killer" bullets does not exist. Intelligent gun control laws are out of reach with our cowardly politicians. Shame on the NRA.

      Good Hub, Up and useful


    • Mimi721wis profile image

      Mimi721wis 6 years ago

      I believe in the right to bear arms to a degree. Guns are great for hunting and protection. People should be responsible. Not everyone has the right to own a gun. There are many murders committed by youths with no respect for life. Guns should not be allowed in public places. Assault weapons are not needed in most hunting expeditions.

    • profile image

      Fay Paxton 6 years ago

      Excellent hub Jeff. The second amendment is a vestige of colonial times, and we need to stop pretending that the same variables that existed then continue to exist today.

      voted up/very useful

    • Jack Burton profile image

      Jack Burton 6 years ago from The Midwest

      I find it quite hard to imagine that because a bayonet lug was banned from a rifle no different from uncle fred's hunting rifle tucked in the closet that the crime rates fell. If they had REALLY banned the rifles instead of meaningless features we probably would have seen the dead come to life and walk again during that period.

    • profile image

      Howard Schneider 6 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Great analysis Jeff. These are common sense restrictions on guns and nothing extreme. You've shown they are effective. But politically the Gun Lobby makes the politicians cowardly. It is a shame that simple laws such as this can no longer devlop a consesus.