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30 years murder-free in ‘Gun Town USA’
In March 1982, 25 years ago, the small town of Kennesaw – responding to a handgun ban in Morton Grove, Ill. – unanimously passed an ordinance requiring each head of household to own and maintain a gun. Since then, despite dire predictions of “Wild West” showdowns and increased violence and accidents, not a single resident has been involved in a fatal shooting – as a victim, attacker or defender.
The crime rate initially plummeted for several years after the passage of the ordinance, with the 2005 per capita crime rate actually significantly lower than it was in 1981, the year before passage of the law.
Prior to enactment of the law, Kennesaw had a population of just 5,242 but a crime rate significantly higher (4,332 per 100,000) than the national average (3,899 per 100,000). The latest statistics available – for the year 2005 – show the rate at 2,027 per 100,000. Meanwhile, the population has skyrocketed to 28,189.
By comparison, the population of Morton Grove, the first city in Illinois to adopt a gun ban for anyone other than police officers, has actually dropped slightly and stands at 22,202, according to 2005 statistics. More significantly, perhaps, the city’s crime rate increased by 15.7 percent immediately after the gun ban, even though the overall crime rate in Cook County rose only 3 percent. Today, by comparison, the township’s crime rate stands at 2,268 per 100,000.
This was not what some predicted.
In a column titled “Gun Town USA,” Art Buchwald suggested Kennesaw would soon become a place where routine disagreements between neighbors would be settled in shootouts. The Washington Post mocked Kennesaw as “the brave little city … soon to be pistol-packing capital of the world.” Phil Donahue invited the mayor on his show.
Police Lt. Craig Graydon said: “When the Kennesaw law was passed in 1982 there was a substantial drop in crime … and we have maintained a really low crime rate since then. We are sure it is one of the lowest (crime) towns in the metro area.” Kennesaw is just north of Atlanta.
The Reuters story went on to report: “Since the Virginia Tech shootings, some conservative U.S. talk show hosts have rejected attempts to link the massacre to the availability of guns, arguing that had students been allowed to carry weapons on campus someone might have been able to shoot the killer.”
Virginia Tech, like many of the nation’s schools and college campuses, is a so-called “gun-free zone,” which Second Amendment supporters say invites gun violence – especially from disturbed individuals seeking to kill as many victims as possible.
Cho Seung-Hui murdered 32 and wounded another 15 before turning his gun on himself.
Gun-free zones provide false sense of security
“After a shooting spree,” author William Burroughs once said, “they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn’t do it.” Burroughs continued: “I sure as hell wouldn’t want to live in a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military.”
Plenty of people — especially among America’s political and journalistic classes — feel differently. They’d be much more comfortable seeing ordinary Americans disarmed. And whenever there is a mass shooting, or other gun incident that snags the headlines, they do their best to exploit the tragedy and push for laws that would, well, take the guns away from the people who didn’t do it.
There are a lot of problems with this approach, but one of the most significant is this one: It doesn’t work. One of the interesting characteristics of mass shootings is that they generally occur in places where firearms are banned: malls, schools, etc. That was the finding of a famous 1999 study by John Lott of the University of Maryland and William Landes of the University of Chicago, and it appears to have been borne out by experience since then as well.
In a way, this is no surprise. If there’s someone present with a gun when a mass shooting begins, the shooter is likely to be shot himself. And, in fact, many mass shootings — from the high school shooting by Luke Woodham in Pearl, Miss., to the New Life Church shooting in Colorado Springs, Colo., where an armed volunteer shot the attacker — have been terminated when someone retrieved a gun from a car or elsewhere and confronted the shooter.
Policies making areas “gun free” provide a sense of safety to those who engage in magical thinking, but in practice, of course, killers aren’t stopped by gun-free zones. As always, it’s the honest people — the very ones you want to be armed — who tend to obey the law.
This vulnerability makes some people uncomfortable. I teach at a state university with a campus gun-free policy, and quite a few of my students have permits to carry guns. After the Virginia Tech shooting a few years ago, one of them asked me if we could move class off campus, because she felt unsafe being unarmed. I certainly would have felt perfectly safe having her carry a gun in my presence; she was, and is, a responsible adult. I feel the same way about the other law students I know who have carry permits.
Gun-free zones are premised on a lie: that murderers will follow rules, and that people like my student are a greater danger to those around them than crazed killers. That’s an insult to honest people. Sometimes, it’s a deadly one. The notion that more guns mean more crime is wrong. In fact, as gun ownership has expanded over the past decade, crime has gone down.
Fortunately, the efforts to punish “the people who didn’t do it” are getting less traction these days. The Supreme Court, of course, has recognized that under the Constitution, honest people have a right to defend themselves with firearms, inside and outside the home, something that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit recently acknowledged in striking down Illinois’ gun-carry ban. Given that gun-free zones seem to be a magnet for mass shooters, maybe we should be working to shrink or eliminate them, rather than expand them. As they say, if it saves just one life, it’s worth it
Source: USA Today