The politicians and anti-gun lobby are playing to the emotions of the people in their attempt to prevent violence, specifically gun violence, by banning semi-automatic rifles. Rifles, of all types, account for roughly 2% of all the guns used in all the homicides in the U.S. These figures haven't changed dramatically in the past decade and are not likely to change.
Prohibition of any sort does not mean criminals will not obey those restrictions. Merriam-Webster defines “criminal” as “relating to, involving, or being a crime.” A crime is further defined as “an act or the commission of an act that is forbidden or the omission of a duty that is commanded by a public law and that makes the offender liable to punishment by that law.” So we know, based on a working knowledge of the English language that criminals commit action forbidden by law.
The U.S. has a long history of failed attempts at prohibition. Let us look first at the most infamous failure, the Eighteenth Amendment that banned “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors.” There were many reasons for this ban, but the four major reasons cited were medical, political, economic, and social.
Many voters in conservative, rural areas supported making alcohol contraband. The politicians who supported prohibition won seats in the elections. Those same conservative voters blamed alcohol for so-called wasteful spending by husbands of family monies and, thus, to an increasing number of divorces.
What was the outcome? Crime rates increased and so to the power and influence of gangs and gangsters. Illegal or “bootleg” liquors were sold in higher prices making the trade more lucrative. In the end the people realized prohibiting something as simple as alcohol was creating more problems than it solved.
One can look at the current prohibitions on various drugs and see how well those have worked. The rise of the drug cartels, the rise in the number of street gangs and, of more concern, the associated violence as these gangs vie for control of the illicit drug trade in their areas. If we look at Chicago for example, there were bloody massacres in the 1920s among crime gangs fighting for control.
If you take a look at the graph above, you will notice the spikes in murder in Chicago follow a pattern with high points during the Prohibition Era and in the second, larger spike, at the end of the 60s with the Race Riots and the beginning of the War of Drugs.
So we should all be able to agree that bans and prohibitions do nothing to curb crime. In fact they tend to increase overall violence and crime and the public seeks the very item(s) banned by the government. So what do we as a society do?
First, we stop using the politically charged terminology, “gun violence” and address the overall issue of “violence.” America’s problem is not “guns” but violence overall, firearms are but one tool of many used by criminals to commit murder, mayhem and other acts against people. Even if a magic wand were used and all guns, everywhere in the world, were destroyed; we would still have the issue of violence.
Secondly, there is a growing body of evidence that “gun-free” zones, which ban the carrying of firearms by law-abiding individuals, don’t work. The federal and state governments have legislated gun free zones in many locations. Economists John Lott and William Landes conducted a groundbreaking study in 1999, and found that a common theme of mass shootings is that they occur in places where guns are banned and killers know everyone will be unarmed, such as shopping malls and schools.
After the Newtown shooting, Lott again confirmed that nothing has altered his findings. The Aurora shooter had a choice of seven movie theaters all showing the Batman movie within a 20-minute drive of his home. He selected the only one that posted signs saying it banned concealed carry. In fact, aside from the Tuscon shooting where Congresswoman Giffords was shot, every mass shooting in the U.S. since 1950 has been in a designated gun-free zone.
These are just two of many socio-economic factors that need to be addressed and considered in the cold, hard light of day, in order to reduce violence in this nation. As pointed out in the beginning of the piece, it is not gun violence per se that is the issue; it is violence and, more than that, the perception of violence. It is time to take a hard, honest look at our society; our societal values and expectations of behavior and make the necessary changes.