You might expect to read the headline “Firearm Sales Up + Crime Down = Gun Control Dead” in a National Rifle Association publication. But it’s actually the latest Bloomberg Businessweek that offers an article with that assessment.
Today, guns are used in 63 percent of violent crimes in the U.S. and 69 percent of murders. The number of U.S. murders and the subset of those killings involving firearms are dropping, however. Murder has diminished 17 percent since 2003, although 2012 saw a 0.4 percent uptick compared with 2011. In a country that broadly speaking is getting safer, it’s more difficult to get politicians in Washington to risk the wrath of the NRA and support anything described as “gun control.”
Apart from politics, dispassionate observers must question the simplistic liberal slogan that more guns equals more crime. The U.S. has seen a two-decade period during which private gun ownership has continued to soar (some 300 million firearms are now in civilian hands), while crime has diminished.
Newtown, and Aurora before it, were not ordinary instances of violent crime. Mass shootings by deranged young men present a special case, one painfully disconnected from the gun control proposals these atrocities inspire. Mass murderers prepare meticulously and usually acquire their weapons legally. Comprehensive background checks make sense for whatever good they might do at the margin, but they wouldn’t have stopped Newtown gunman Adam Lanza, who armed himself from his mother’s legal, if negligently maintained, home arsenal. Aaron Alexis, who killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard in September, used a legally acquired 12-gauge shotgun, a firearm widely carried by bird hunters and not on any plausible ban list.
One hard truth is that in a society with widespread gun ownership protected by the Second Amendment, suicidal young men determined to make a statement by slaying innocents will continue from time to time to attempt their bloody spectacles. The media don’t help by sensationalizing these crimes with 24/7 cable coverage that psychiatrists believe incites copycats. To make guns truly unavailable, one has to talk about broad prohibition and confiscation. That’s simply not on the table.
It would be nice if Bloomberg Businessweek and other mainstream media outlets could turn their attention to debunking other “simplistic liberal slogans.” Until they do, John Hood is happy to take on that task.