Just For Skeptics

Gun Grabbers Have No Proof Washington DC's Gun Ban Laws Have Worked

By
Larry Pratt

Washington DC's unconstitutional gun ban laws have been in effect for more than 25 years.

But, I am not aware of any credible study which shows these law have worked -- by which I mean that they have reduced crimes by individuals using guns. And the gun-grabbers and their allies are unable to cite any such study.

One of the earliest backers of the DC gun ban laws was Charles Orasin.

In late 1978, when the District of Columbia's Court of Appeals upheld the District's gun ban laws, Orasin, at the time a spokesman for the National Council To Control Handguns, said: "This is a victory for all the residents of the District."

When called at his Virginia home recently and asked if he knew of any studies which shows that the DC gun ban laws have actually reduced crimes committed by people with guns, Orasin said: "I am not interested in discussing this subject."

He hangs up the phone.

Of course, that he would chose to live in the safety of Virginia which bristles with guns is perhaps all the discussion that is needed.

In his idiotically titled book Every Handgun Is Aimed At You: The Case For Banning Handguns (New Press, 2001), Josh Sugarmann, Executive Director of the Violence Policy Center (VPC), says (page 85):

"We know in the District of Columbia -- where we've banned handguns -- that if you minimize the number of handguns you are going to have less shootings, a pretty simple, straightforward concept."

Oh, really? And what data is there that shows there have been "less shootings" in Washington DC since private citizens were denied their Constitutional right to keep and bear arms?

Well, Matthew Nosanchuk, Litigation Director for the VPC, says, in an interview, he thinks that in the mid-1980s there was a University of Maryland study which showed the DC gun ban had "a positive effect."

What, exactly, Nosanchuk is alluding to is not clear because he had no specific date and no specific name for the study which he mentions.

In 1991 there was a study published in the New England Journal Of Medicine by four authors one of whom was at the time at the University of Maryland.

The study, titled "Effects of Restrictive Licensing of Handguns on Homicide and Suicide in the District of Columbia," purported to show the 1976 DC gun ban law decreased murders.

But, this study has been exposed as a methodological mess and a fraud. In a review of this study, Dr. Edgar A. Suter, chairman of Doctors For Integrity In Research And Public Policy, notes the following:

* The study's claimed apparent, temporary and miniscule homicide drop occurred two years before the DC gun ban law took effect.
* The study used raw numbers rather than population-corrected rates exaggerating the authors' misinterpretations.
* The study conveniently stopped as Washington DC's overall homicide rate skyrocketed to eight times the national average and the black, male, teen homicide rate skyrocketed to 22 times the national average.

Gene Healy, an attorney and senior editor at the CATO Institute, says the murder rate in Washington DC is 55 percent higher than before the DC gun ban laws went into effect.

Healy has joined three other attorneys -- Alan Gura, Robert A. Levy and Clark M. Neily -- to file what is arguably the finest, most concise and compellingly documented defense of the "individual right" view of the Second Amendment I have ever seen.

They represent six plaintiffs who have gone to U.S. District Court in our Nation's capital to challenge Washington DC's anti-gun laws which blatantly infringe the Constitutionally protected right of private citizens to keep and bear arms.

I repeat: This brief is without a doubt one of the best I have ever read on this subject.

You can read it and other documents pertaining to this case online here.

I urge you to read it closely, print it out and keep it as a reference document. It is excellent and the attorneys who put it together are to be congratulated.

But back to the question, is there any evidence that the DC gun ban has actually reduced crimes committed by people with guns. Perhaps the Feds know of such a study which points to the answer.

However, when this question is put to an official U.S. Justice Department spokesman, she says, after checking, "on background," asking not to be named: "I do not know of any study."

How about the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department? Certainly the MPD has some data showing the DC gun ban laws have worked. I mean, they enforce these laws, right? Wrong. No data. Here's the way the conversation went when Quinton Pearson, a Public Information Officer was interviewed:

Q: What data do you have that shows the DC gun ban laws have reduced crimes committed by people using guns?
A: What data do we actually have?
Q: Yeah. The laws have been in effect now for more than 25 years.
A: Hmmmm. I don't know that we do have any data that shows it's reduced crime. I don't think any study has ever been done.

Finally, you'd think that if anybody would have any information showing that the DC gun ban laws have worked, it would be Washington's Mayor Anthony Williams who has been one of the strongest supporters of these unconstitutional laws.

But, when asked if the Mayor had any evidence, or knew of any evidence, that the DC gun ban laws have reduced crimes committed by people with guns, his press spokesman Tony Bullock said: "No, I don't have any such information, no."

He refers the question to Peter Lavallee, Communications Director for the Office of the Corporation Counsel.

When interviewed, Lavallee says: "I don't know of any such data off-hand that I've seen." He says he'll call back after checking with his Criminal Division. He calls back.

Lavallee: "I checked with the four top people in our Criminal Division and they said this didn't ring a bell with them" (that is the question regarding whether there is any data showing that the DC gun ban laws have worked).

Q: Interesting, isn't it?, that your gun ban laws have been in effect more than 25 years and you have no evidence these laws have worked.
Lavallee: I see the point you're making.

But, wait! I have, after a diligent search, found a specific mention of a specific study assessing the impact of the DC gun ban law.

This study is alluded to in a book by one of the pioneer, Founding Fathers of the gun-grabber movement, Pete Shields.

In his 1981 book Guns Don't Die -- People Do (Arbor House), on page 79, Shields, at the time chairman of Handgun Control, Inc., notes, proudly, that Washington DC, in 1977, passed one of the strictest handgun control laws in the nation.

The result? Well, Shields says that Edward D. Jones III, a former Justice Department analyst, made a study comparing handgun homicides in 1974 with handgun homicides in 1978, the first full year of the DC gun ban law.

And? And, among other things, "the study also showed that the new law had little impact on the use of handguns in street crime."

Why? Because, according to Jones, the criminal can follow his "single-minded intention to engage in criminality" by the simple expedient of buying a handgun elsewhere.

In other words, once again, we see the truth of the statement widely ridiculed by the gun-grabbers: "When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns." Exactly.

Is Virginia the Cause of DC's Problems?

Washington, D.C. has, perhaps, the most restrictive gun control laws in the country, and yet it has one of the highest murder rates in the nation.

Critics claim criminals merely get their guns in Virginia where the laws are more relaxed. This, they argue, is why the D.C. gun ban is not working.

Perhaps criminals do get their guns in Virginia, but this overlooks one point: If the availability of guns in Virginia is the root of D.C.'s problems, why does Virginia not have the same murder and crime rate as the District? Virginia is awash in guns and yet the murder rate is much, much lower. This holds true even for Virginia's urban areas, as seen by the following comparison on the 25-year anniversary of the DC gun ban (in 2001):

CityMurder rates: 25 years after DC's ban
Washington, DC 46.4 per 100,0001
Arlington, VA 2.1 per 100,0002
(Arlington is just across the river from D.C.)
Total VA metropolitan area 6.1 per 100,0003

Guns are not the problem. On the contrary, lax criminal penalties and laws that disarm the law-abiding are responsible for giving criminals a safer working environment


1FBI, "Crime in the United States," Uniform Crime Reports (October 28, 2002): 77.
2Id. At 190. According to Arlington County's Department of Planning, Housing and Development, the population in Arlington, Virginia for 2001 was 190,1092.
3Id. at 85.