Assault Weapons Ban Will Only Spark More Shootings

Politicians proposing bans on assault weapons beware because Americans are voting … in the marketplace. In the wake of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, AR-15 rifle sales are soaring nationwide primarily because gun owners fear they will be banned.

Libertarians, gun enthusiasts, and economists like John Lott, the author of More Guns, Less Crime and The Bias Against Guns, argue that gun ownership prevents crime because criminals are less likely to mug or kill individuals who may be armed.

Is this the reason why James Holmes chose Aurora’s Cinemark movie theater for his barbarism? After all, according to Lott, seven theaters within 20 minutes of Holmes’ apartment were showing the new Batman movie on that fateful night but only Cinemark bans guns. Lott also reports that about 4% of adults in Colorado have permits to carry concealed handguns. A smart madman like Holmes would expect 10 to 14 people in an average theater to be carrying handguns. Surely, this seemingly small probability contributed to this monster’s venue choice.

If you don’t buy the argument that gun bans are associated with higher crime because citizens are helpless and dependent on police arriving ex post, Lott challenges you to post a sign on your front lawn that states your home is a gun-free zone. I won’t be accepting this challenge.

In addition to that, bans do not work. King Peter the Persnickety of Sesame Street learned banning letter P after being pelted by a Ping-Pong ball and being pricked by his pet porcupine has unintended consequences. Namely, he lost his favorite food, peanut butter and pickle pizza, his palace, and his daughter, Princess Penelope.

How well do government bans on heroine, crack, methamphetamines, prostitutes’ services, and some forms of gambling work?

The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibited the production, distribution, and sale of alcohol in 1920. Supporters believed it would reduce crime but instead it exploded, pardon the pun. Can you say Al Capone or Chicago's St. Valentine's Day massacre? Countless movies like The Untouchables have portrayed the crime wave prohibition unleashed. This ban was rightfully lifted with the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment in 1933.

In regard to gun bans, criminals will find ways to get around them. A ban will drive the gun prices up. Criminals that can’t afford them will make zip guns in their garages. Criminals that can afford assault rifles will be able to purchase them in illegal markets because even the most the estimable of cops, soldiers, and Secret Service agents have a price.

Even if a gun ban worked as intended, is it even worth doing? You might be portrayed as monster for suggesting otherwise in the wake of the tragic Sandy Hook shooting.

According to a recent Center for Disease Control (CDC) report, there were roughly 2.5 million deaths in the U.S. in 2011. Most deaths were related to disease and complications associated with aging. Table B in this report ranks the top 15 causes. Homicides by firearms did not make the list. However, guns caused nearly 32,000 deaths. A little more than half of suicides were facilitated by them (19,766), which was followed by 11,101 homicides by firearms, and 851 deaths resulting from accidental gun discharges.

The report indicates the following causes ranked higher than homicides by firearms: motor vehicle accidents (34,677), alcohol-induced deaths (26,256), accidental poisoning (33,554), and falls (26,631). The report also shows that deaths from homicides by means other than firearms, injuries at work, and accidental drowning together (12,567) exceed homicides by firearms.

The CDC’s report indicated that the 1st and 4th causes of death among those between the ages of 15 and 24 resulted from motor vehicle accidents (6,984) and homicide (4,508). For those between the ages of 25 and 44, these two causes dropped to 5th (10,181 motor vehicle accidents) and 6th (6,639 homicides).

If politicians think gun bans will eliminate needless deaths, they should not stop with them. They should push for bans on activities that are associated with deaths like full-immersion baptisms, poisons, work, matches, propane, and gasoline. In addition, prohibiting people younger than 44 from driving motor vehicles should be considered.

Although alcohol was associated with more than twice as many deaths as homicides by firearms, politicians should shy away from banning it again because that did go well the first time around.

Despite gun sales soaring during President Obama’s first term, according to a Congressional Research Services report, the annual murder rate involving firearms is lower under Obama's watch then it was during the Bush and Clinton terms. This is remarkable given that the economy has been mired in a recessionary gap that has spanned the Obama presidency. Hence, despite the four tragedies the president pointed to in his Sunday night remarks, America is safer than ever.

The real threat to Americans’ safety is yet another failed government ban and its unintended consequences. History tells us so.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Hal Snarr

Hal teaches economics and statistics, and conducts research that examines how welfare and other policies affect labor supply, marriage, fertility, migration, dependency, and poverty. He teaches six courses per academic year plus two during the summer term. He regularly teaches macroeconomic principles, business statistics, introductory regression analysis, and labor economics.

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