Chicago finished out 2012 with a bang, as it passed a major milestone hitting over 500 murders. Chicago has started off 2013 on the wrong foot, with this past week’s murder rate outpacing 2012’s. In the wake of Sandy Hook, many people have called for increased gun control. While they have mostly targeted so called “assault weapons,” proponents of gun control have also sought to further limit handguns. Chicago has some of the strictest gun control laws in the country. Illinois remains the only state in the country where nobody can legally carry a concealed weapon, and lawmakers recently introduced measures to restrict legal gun ownership even more.
Gun control policies don’t work because they disarm citizens while keeping criminals in possession of guns. Chicago’s strict policies have effectively given lawbreakers a monopoly on weapons in many parts of the city that the Chicago Police Department cannot or will not police effectively.
A nice contrast to Chicago for a natural experiment is Houston. Houston is very similar to Chicago in terms of socioeconomic factors such as population, density, and segregation. Houston, like Chicago, is a major center for illegal activities such as the drug trade and human trafficking. Despite all this, Houston has a murder rate two-thirds that of Chicago. This is because the people of Houston are well armed, while innocents in Chicago have been condemned to be sitting ducks.
Chicago has a geographical divide, with most affluent people who reside on the north side of the city surrounding the CTA’s Red and Brown lines refusing to cross into the crime-ridden neighborhoods on the south and west sides. In 2010, Chicago native and rapper Lupe Fiascoagreed with Bill O’Reilly’s controversial statement that certain parts of the city more closely resemble Haiti than the rest of the city.
Proponents of gun control have their heart in the right place. They would like to see fewer people murdered. I’m pretty sure everybody can agree that fewer dead people is a laudable policy goal. Unfortunately, gun control does not achieve this goal. After both the Sandy Hook shooting and the Aurora shooting, calls have come for “common sense” gun control, including a ban on semi-automatic rifles used in the senseless massacres. These weapons have been proven to protectproperty owners at their homes and business time and time again.
Make no mistake. Any gun deaths are a tragedy, but restricting gun possession does not prevent them. John Lott’s seminal work More Guns, Less Crime found that allowing law-abiding citizens to posses firearms reduces violent crime and causes criminals to turn to crimes which do not involve as much confrontation, such as break-ins. While most proponents of gun control are well intentioned, they are wrong to call for limitations on the possession of weapons by law-abiding citizens.