Gun Control Doesn’t Save Lives. Here’s What Does

Image by Marcus Trapp from Pixabay

Have an AR-15? Cory Booker wants it. Standard capacity magazines? He wants those too. And there’s something else he’ll take: your name and address.

Sen. Booker is running for president, and he’s making your guns a key issue. Specifically, he’s promising to ban “assault weapons” and “high capacity magazines,” restrict the number of guns an individual can purchase, and force every gun owner to obtain a license. Booker laid out his plans earlier this year, and he clearly has a lot of emotion behind them. What he doesn’t have are facts.

Booker says guns are a “very personal” issue for him “because I’m a black man, and black males are 6 percent of the nation’s population. But they make up the majority of homicide victims in this country.” Now, it’s certainly true that homicide takes a massive toll on the African American community, but it’s not due to a surplus of guns: the percentage of blacks who own a firearm is around one third lower than it is among whites. What’s more, restrictive laws haven’t helped the problem.

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Booker’s home state of New Jersey has has them, including a so-called assault weapon ban, a limitation on magazine size, and an onerous licensing system that makes it difficult to acquire guns legally. Still, they didn’t prevent one of Booker’s friends from getting murdered with a semi-automatic rifle. They also didn’t prevent Camden and Newark from becoming two of the most dangerous cities in America (Booker was mayor of Newark for over a decade). So what do those rules prevent?

Victims from defending themselves.

Carol Browne discovered that. Browne got a restraining order and applied for a handgun permit after being stalked by an abusive boyfriend. While applications are supposed to approved or denied within thirty days, that rarely happens; Brown had been waiting for a month and a half when she was stabbed to death.

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Browne was wise to seek out a gun. After all, the efficacy of a firearm depends of its user’s skill—not her size or strength. Having one was probably the only way that she could have defended herself against a large man armed with a knife. It’s how a single mother in Oklahoma stopped a knife wielding attacker:

But thanks to New Jersey’s bureaucratic licensing system, Carol Browne wasn’t able to do the same. What’s more, Booker’s proposed ban on semi-automatic rifles and standard capacity magazines wouldn’t have much impact on the murder rate: of the over fifteen thousand murders committed in 2017, the FBI reports that only four hundred and three involved rifles of any kind. However, a ban would make it harder for people to defend themselves from multiple armed attackers:

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So if going after law abiding people doesn’t reduce crime, what does? Simple: going after criminals.

A big chunk of murders are committed by people with prior felony convictions. The good news? Those felons are already prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms, and locking them up produces results. That was demonstrated in the late 1990s through Project Exile–-a program in Richmond that took armed felons off the street with long federal sentences, causing the city’s murder rate to plummet. It was expanded nationwide under President Bush as Project Safe Neighborhoods, and while the Obama administration wasn’t enthusiastic about it, the current one is.

Armed felons aren’t hard to find: many of them get turned away from gun stores after failing a background check. Historically, only a tiny fraction were ever prosecuted, but the Trump DOJ is changing that.

Sen. Booker says he’s “tired of going to funerals where parents are burying their children.” If that’s the case, then there are ways he can help stop it from happening. Enforcing laws is one, and making it easier for people to defend themselves is another. Because going after criminals saves lives; disarming their victims doesn’t.

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