The incoming Democratic powers-that-be in the congressional leadership and on the Senate and House Judiciary Committees are a who’s who of the gun-control movement: Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Patrick Leahy, John Conyers, Dick Durbin, Joseph Biden, Ted Kennedy, Harry Reid and Herb Kohl, to name a few. If and when gun control roars back to life in 2007-08 — we expect that it will — the data unearthed this week in these lawmakers’ own backyards by reporter Matthew Cella should loom large.
The District of Columbia’s gun-murder numbers show yet again that stringent gun-control laws have little or no utility in curbing the violence, even as they strip citizens of their Second Amendment rights. And indeed the trend nationwide since 1991 has been a drop in crime at the same time gun-control laws were loosened.
Since 1977, the nation’s capital has kept some of the country’s strictest gun laws on the books. And yet, as Mr. Cella showed Friday in The Washington Times, over the period 2001-05, about 80 percent of murders in the District were perpetrated with guns — a ratio slightly higher than in New York, Chicago, Baltimore and Atlanta. Overall homicide levels in the District are troublingly high and have not been helped by gun control. Which is no wonder: Violent criminals can wield guns confident that they will not get caught, and confident that law-abiding people will not have guns themselves.
In 2004, the most recent year for which data is available, guns were used in 61.1 percent of homicides in New York, 75.2 percent in Chicago, 77.5 percent in Baltimore and 73.2 percent in Atlanta. The 2004 percentage in the District was 79.3 percent. These numbers show little correlation with the degree of gun-control strictness. Relatively gun-lax Atlanta’s numbers are close to relatively strict Baltimore’s, while highly strict New York City and Washington, D.C., are the group outliers.
Gun-control advocates argue that less restrictionist states undermine neighbors’ strict laws. Well, for every such hypothetical, the National Rifle Association can name cities and towns that enjoyed drops in crime after gun-control laws were loosened.
Since the 1976 handgun ban, the District has never been off the list of the most violent cities, and on several occasions it has been the most violent place in America.
Beyond the numbers, gun-rights advocates will need to tell the new Democratic leadership in no uncertain terms that the Second Amendment isn’t negotiable. Gun ownership is an alienable right.
We’ll also be keeping an eye on three incoming Democratic senators, Jon Tester of Montana, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Jim Webb of Virginia. All three deployed gun-rights rhetoric on the campaign trail. But all three now face a party leadership with a poor record on gun rights. It will be interesting to see whether and how they reconcile the conflict.