EDITORIAL: Learning from the D.C. handgun ban

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The year after the Supreme Court struck down the District of Columbia’s handgun ban and gun-lock requirements, the capital city’s murder rate plummeted 25 percent. The high court should keep that in mind today as it hears oral arguments about a Chicago handgun ban.

Gun controllers screamed to high heaven that impending disaster would follow the court’s decision to junk some of the district’s gun controls. One of those screaming the loudest was Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, who incorrectly predicted more gun freedom would lead to more death and Wild West shootouts. Instead, in Washington, murder rates rose when the handgun ban was in effect and fell once the regulations were removed.

Chicago’s 1982 ban faired no better. The forthcoming third edition of “More Guns, Less Crime” shows that in the 17 years after a ban on new handguns went into effect, there were only two years when Chicago’s murder rate was as low as it was in 1982. The Windy City’s murder rate fell relative to America’s other 50 largest cities before the ban and rose relative to them afterward. For example, Chicago’s murder rate went from equaling the average for those other U.S. cities in 1982 to exceeding their average murder rate by 32 percent in 1992. There is no year after the ban that Chicago’s murder rate fared as well relative to other cities as it did in 1982.

That increase in murder rates isn’t surprising. Every time gun bans have been tried anywhere, murder rates have risen. Whether one looks at Ireland, Jamaica or England and Wales, the experience has been the same. Not only did murder rates fail to decline as promised, but the rates actually increased following gun bans.

In general, gun-control laws disarm law-abiding citizens - not criminals who don’t care about the law. The lesson is that freedom and safety go hand in hand.

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