Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Guns And Crime And Alabama

In the wake of the murders of three faculty members and wounding of two others by University of Alabama-Huntsville professor Amy Bishop, Howard Nemerov has written an enthused, if cursory, piece in the Austin Gun Rights Examiner opposing gun control.

Nemerov supports right-to-carry laws and opposes gun-free zones, such as the University of Alabama. However, he notes "nearly all post-secondary schools" prohibit individuals from carrying guns on campus- and, in fact, only in Utah are persons expressly permitted to carry weapons on a college campus. Sixteen states explicity prohibit weapons on college campuses, while twenty-two others (of which Alabama apparently is one) generally prohibit them at schools.

Gun-free zones are not the most effective form of gun control, although it can, if properly formulated, give prosecutors a weapon in prosecuting violent offenders. More effective measures typically are blocked by lobbyists in state legislatures or Congress. And, theoretically, Amy Bishop could have armed herself with a knife and gone from instructor to instructor, thrusting her knife into the five individuals. Theoretically, but not realistically.

But Nemerov, and most like-minded individuals, are little interested in determining the most effective means of reducing deaths from firearms. Nemerov, for instance, claims incidents such as the one in Huntsville "point to one inevitable conclusion: gun control failed," a curious conclusion given the extremely lax gun laws in Alabama.

Individuals determined to block any reasonable effort at reducing the number of firearms in the hands of criminals, the mentally unstable, and others who should not be possessing them should take heed of this chart. It indicates that the states with the five highest gun death rates are, from first to fifth: Louisiana, Alabama, Alaska and Mississippi (tied), and Nevada. Each has a gun ownership rate higher than the national average, ranging from 31.57% (Nevada) to 60.67% (Alaska), with Alabama at 57.2%. The five states (from lowest to highest) with the lowest gun rates are Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York; their gun ownership rates range from a high of 18.1 in New York to a low of 9.7 in Hawaii. (Even in this group, the gun ownership rate is highest in the state with the highest gun ownership rate.)

The correlation between the gun ownership, and the violent crime, rate is not nearly as strong as that between gun ownership and deaths by gun. Still, in 1997 only five states had a higher overall violent crime death rate than Alaska and Louisiana had the third highest rate in the country. (South Carolina had the dubious distinction of coming in #1.)

Admittedly, these intriguing statistics prove little- correlation does not prove causation. And in that, they are identical to virtually all the arguments of the pro-gun crowd: they demonstrate little if anything. Instead, common sense should prevail, in which case this nation would have considerably more restrictions on dangerous firearms than it now has.

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