Local Laboratories Don’t Show the Effectiveness of Gun Control Laws Advocates Claim They Do

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From the NRA-ILA . . .

Ninety years ago, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis described a novel business regulation in a case then before the Court as one that “involves a vast extension of the area of control” exercised by the state. In an often-cited reference, he urged the Court to uphold the scheme. “Denial of the right to experiment may be fraught with serious consequences to the nation. It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.”

The other members of the Court were unmoved by his enthusiasm, finding that the interest in exploring the “uncharted seas” of economic and social sciences could not transcend the limitations imposed by the Constitution. “The principle is imbedded in our constitutional system that there are certain essentials of liberty with which the State is not entitled to dispense in the interest of experiments.”

Although the issue before the Court didn’t involve firearms, arguably one such legislative experiment now is gun control, and the laboratory in this instance is the District of Columbia. A few weeks ago, a spokesperson for the national gun control group Giffords was clear that the formula couldn’t be more obvious. “There is no debate. Lawmakers can save lives, reduce violence, and make their states safer by following a simple blueprint: pass gun violence prevention laws.”

The same group praises Washington, D.C. for having “enacted some of the strongest gun violence prevention legislation in the nation.” Indeed, the checklist of gun laws adopted in the Nation’s capital stops just short of a complete ban on firearms, with gun owner registration, “universal” background checks, “assault weapon” and “large capacity” magazine bans, a prohibitive concealed carry law, a gun offender registry, and lots more of questionable validity given the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in NYSRPA v. Bruen. The benefits of living in this exemplar of near-ideal gun control would, one expect, be boosted by proximity to adjacent Maryland (Giffords A-rated) and B-rated Virginia.

If only life were that simple.

The D.C. Police Union, representing the sworn officers of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), reports that as of June 6, the number of homicides in the District surpassed 100, being the earliest point in the year that the city had reached the triple-digit marker in two decades. The union’s statement provides additional context: over the last ten years, “the average date that we have reached this grim marker is October 25.” Homicides in some parts of D.C. are up by 133% this year compared to 2022, and are not the only violent crime on the upswing. Robberies citywide have increased by 34%, and carjackings have increased by 57%.

A Washington Post headline concurs: “D.C.-area carjackings have soared.” Carjacking has “grown at a staggering rate in the D.C. area during the height of the coronavirus pandemic and that continues to surge,” increasing from approximately 200 crimes in 2018 across D.C. and its neighboring jurisdictions to more than a 1,000 by the end of 2022. Not only is there a steady increase year over year, but juvenile perpetrators are overtaking adults in committing this crime.

The Washington Post article includes an awkwardly titled “carjacking-tips from police.” The law enforcement hints on how to avoid being carjacked include trusting your instincts, parking in areas with good lighting and visibility, and keeping car doors locked, even when driving. “And, if you are threatened for your car, police recommend giving it up to avoid any personal injury.”

Notably absent is advice on lawfully carrying a firearm for personal protection against would-be criminals.

The crooks themselves are uninhibited by the District’s strict gun control laws – and with good reason. Data in a 2023 D.C. Sentencing Commission report reveals that out of a total of 5,558 MPD arrests for carrying a pistol without a license (CPWL) made between 2018 and 2022, 34.2% (1,933 cases) were “no papered” (“the prosecuting authority … elected not to immediately file charges in Superior Court related to the arrest”) or were closed without a conviction. Only 97 cases (1.74%) ultimately resulted in a prison sentence.

Courtesy District of Columbia Sentencing Commission

The figures on arrests and dispositions for “unlawful possession of a firearm” (UPF) offenses show the odds in favor of lawbreakers were pretty good, too. Out of 2,149 total arrests made for UPF crimes in the same time period, 38.6% were “no papered” or closed without a conviction. Of the remaining cases that resulted in a conviction and sentencing for UPF, only 14.5% (312 cases) concluded with the offender behind bars.

Our earlier alert on the impact of gun control in Vermont (“Is gun control making Vermont less safe?”) cautioned that it’s an oversimplification to conclude that fluctuations in the violent crime rates rest on the relative strength of a jurisdiction’s gun control laws. The case with the District of Columbia is no different. Common sense suggests, though, that D.C.’s gun laws are doing little to impede crime, being more honored in the breach than in the observance.

Undoubtedly, gun control advocates will find a way to explain why following their “simple blueprint” in D.C. hasn’t led to reduced crime or increased public safety. Giffords, for one, makes a point of stating (about a jurisdiction with no gun stores and just two licensed FFLs) that “firearms purchased in DC are rarely used in crimes.”

Going back to that 1932 Supreme Court case, the Court laid down a different and preferable scientific method for legislators to follow. “[U]nreasonable or arbitrary interference or restrictions cannot be saved…merely by calling them experimental. It is not necessary to challenge the authority of the states to indulge in experimental legislation; but it would be strange and unwarranted doctrine to hold that they may do so by enactments which transcend the limitations imposed upon them by the Federal Constitution.”


This article originally appeared at nraila.org and is reprinted here with permission.

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    • “solve two problems with one item.”

      yep… nuke these ‘laboratories’ from orbit, its the only way to he sure.


    • lots of blacks in DC…relatively few in Vermont…that’s the difference…not the gun laws which are largely irrelevant….

  1. Common sense: Gun violence is caused by an insufficiency of gun laws. It is easy: keep passing gun laws until the violence stops. If anyone, anywhere shoots someone, we can simply add another law. Common sense.

    • criminals are criminals…laws are largely irrelevant to them…particularly when they’re rarely enforced….

  2. We did a social experiment with ants. One slip of cardboard coated with organic corn syrup, one coated with GMO corn syrup. The organic one was surrounded by ants. The GMO had almost no takers.

    Now, let’s apply that principle to guns in society. Let’s establish a brand new town where no firearms may be had, not even by the police. And another brand new town where everyone one must have a firearm. Which town will be safer?

      • Obviously, we need to fund a study to determine how many of which kinds of ants are in the neighborhood. Certainly, the oppressed fire ants will be found to be racially profiled, and excessively policed.

        • then you still need to define the ants that are trans-gendered, they will want everything and all the ants to change to suit them.

  3. You Have a civil right to a bazooka. And you just might need one. Because of all the armored fighting vehicles that the Obama/Biden administration, gave away for free. To police departments all across the United States.

    Along with lots of free machine guns.

    • you can get a bazooka…good luck with the rockets…[unless you live near a military base…where everything can be had…for a price]..

  4. Apply your Skils and Knowledge in the lucrative buisness of Car Jacking.
    Yes you too can achieve your dreams and aspirations in just a few short months. A job that has high expectations , zero career benefits, and no responsibilities.
    Enter the exciting world of
    Apply now. [some age restrictions may apply]

  5. A couple things.
    First, gun laws, and laws against bad behavior have no effect on those who have chosen to live outside the law. We have as a society declared murder is unacceptable behavior. As is armed, or strong arm robbery, assault, rape, and most other violent acts. So, if a written law would have somehow deterred a criminal, or prevented it from happening, why do we still see these things happen?
    Next, disarmed populations have a history of being killed by their own governments.
    Look at the Armenians in Turkey. Or the various non Han Chinese under the CCP. Or the Jews under the various Russian Pogroms since the Tsars, through the Soviets and even now.
    Even here in the US we had the attempted Genocide of the Native Tribes, and realize how close the internment camps with the Japanese during WWII came to being death camps.
    Look at what has happened throughout the history of Communist takeovers across the world.
    But it can’t happen here? The hell it can’t. Look at the current folks in charge in DC. Just recently the Delaware Dictator threatened the use of F-16’s should anyone threaten the Government. And bet at least 50% of the military and the majority of the current command would follow orders.
    And lastly, the foolish advice of being a passive victim and hoping the miscreant/criminal feels charitable and lets you be a good witness rather than harming or killing you is suicidal.
    “Just let the criminal have what they want.” So what happens if what they want is your life? Or your daughter, or wife? Just tell her to lay back and enjoy it?
    Now, I’m an old man. My kids are grown and will be able to live on after I’m gone. The world will still turn long after I’m dead.
    But, there is no way in hell I’ll roll over and be a victim to some chump who is too lazy to earn their own way. Nor will I ever surrender to any government thuggery or quietly board the train to the camps.

  6. “realize how close the internment camps with the Japanese during WWII came to being death camps’

    I get getting excited about stuff when we’re writing/responding – care to provide any data that supports this…?

    • they came very close to be turned into death camps, it was simply a few words to the public to take advantage of the hysteria.

      but there were many in government that wanted to treat them as basically enemy-combatants and treat them as the Japanese and Germans treated many of their Allied POW’S which was frequently inhumane conditions amounting to death camp status like the ways the Germans treated the Jews.

      governments have a tendency of doing that when they can subjugate a populace, view them as property and a problem to get rid of.

      but anyway..


        • Bob,

          I grew up with my Dad working alongside a guy who had been in Manzanar (and when he came of age, STILL volunteered for service, served in the 442d Regimental Combat Team in Italy, and retired with a chest full of medals). Manzanar was cold as hell in the winter (and the heating was inadequate), not as hell in the summer (and no AC), food was lousy (and not exactly plentiful), medical care was mediocre-to-nonexistent, many of the interred families (in that group, mostly from the numerous small farmers in and around Sacramento, Stockton, and Lodi) lost their properties and businesses.

          Were they “death camps”? No, and the residents were objectively better off than pre-Civil War slaves, but . . . don’t minimize how heinous the racist fascism of that noted Dimocrat fascist, FDR was. He was true to his party roots. And what was done to American CITIZENS, of Japanese ancestry, was a heinous, racist crime. But, then, what do you expect from the party of slavery, Jim Crow, the KKK, Japanese internment . . . oh, and let’s not forget our favorite Native American killer, Andrew Jackson. The Dimocrats have never met a piece of racist fascism they weren’t will to pursue.

        • @Bobthebuilder

          “not even close to being/becoming death camps”

          You need to understand what this was, it was an intentional unjustified violation of civil rights and freedoms and a gross violation of the constitution. Its called tyranny. When just a few words from government can intentionally violate rights and freedoms and subjugate a population by tyranny and place them in captivity, that is exactly how death camps are created.

          The only thing that separated this from the German death camps for the Jews, was simply a few words from government. Yeah, although visually it may not have looked like what one would imagine a death camp to look like – but it was close to being/becoming death camps as it was just a few words from government that was needed. And there were those in government and in the public that wanted to treat them like the Germans treated the Jews.

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