The real gun control issue

by Anthony Bradley

Posted on Friday, October 16, 2015, at 3:41 pm

After watching the Democratic presidential candidates debate gun control Tuesday night, one has to wonder if they understand why criminals commit crimes.

“I think that we have to look at the fact that we lose 90 people a day from gun violence,” Hillary Clinton said, adding, “It’s time the entire country stood up against the NRA.”

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley suggested we should pass gun restrictions at the federal level like the restrictions passed in his state in 2013. But is fighting against the National Rifle Association, invoking common sense, or increasing gun restrictions going to stop criminals from hurting people?

Since O’Malley mentioned gun restrictions in Maryland, it’s worth examining the data. Two years after the gun laws were passed, homicides in Baltimore increased by 49 percent, non-fatal shootings by 79 percent, and total shootings rose by 77 percent over the previous year. There is a strong correlation among escalating violence, gang-related lifestyles, and drug distribution in Baltimore. There is an elephant in the room, and that elephant is the Mexican drug cartels. The hard truth is that if the United States enacted greater gun restrictions tomorrow, it likely would not have the desired long-term effect for two reasons: (1) there is a demand for guns and (2) the United States borders Mexico.

Why is this important? If criminals will not obey drug laws, then they certainly will not obey gun laws. We can look at drug smuggling across the Mexico-U.S. border for this narrative. Because there is a demand for narcotics in this country there is someone willing to supply it in order to profit. According to U.S. authorities, close to 90 percent of the cocaine entering the country crosses the U.S.-Mexico land border, most of it entering Texas. Cocaine is illegal in every state in this country, and making it illegal has not eliminated the demand or its distribution in America. People want what they want.

Baltimore is not the only place where we see the ineffectiveness of strict gun control. Chicago has some of the toughest gun control laws in the country but is a tragically murderous city. The Chicago Tribune reports that approximately 2,300 people have been shot in city so far in 2015, about 400 more than during the same period last year. Homicides are up 21 percent from the same period in 2014. Chicago police have recovered more than 5,419 illegal guns this year alone. We have known for some time now that Chicago’s gun violence is directly connected to Mexican drug cartels. As with Baltimore, the violence in Chicago correlates with gangs and drug distribution, and like Baltimore, stricter gun control has proved ineffective.

The realities of supply and demand make it difficult to see how restricting gun possession, which is a constitutional right, could eliminate drug-related gang violence in cities like Baltimore and Chicago. Instead, until we deal with drug trafficking and the culture of gangs, gun violence will continue at current levels. We know this because there is no country near Mexico that has low levels of gun violence.

Anthony Bradley

Anthony is associate professor of religious studies at The King's College in New York and a research fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.

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