Illegal versus Legal Guns and Impact on Crime
While evidence seems to be mounting that legal restrictions upon guns do not decrease overall crime rates, the fact remains that illegal firearms remain one of the biggest causes of crime in the country. In a world where law-abiding citizens do obey tough strictures on possessing firearms, then illegal guns would seem to be even more dangerous, as the only individuals to have guns in such a world would be those who did not obey the law, and officers of the law.
But if a great deal of effort and focus was placed on attempting to rid the world of illegal firearms, as opposed to placing an emphasis on restricting law-abiding citizens’ access to those guns, then it make the difference that so many policymakers and law enforcement officials have sought. Instead of attempting to prevent average citizens from obtaining guns, resources should be spent on cracking down upon the presence of illegal firearms in the country.
In the 1992-93 Kansas City experiment, a number of police officers in the inner city of Kansas City were put specifically and entirely on the duty of searching for and eliminating illegal firearms. This heightened crackdown took place over a period of 29 weeks, after which results were studied and compared with those of the first, unchanged 29 weeks.
After the 29 weeks of heightened activity against illegal firearms, the rates of gun crimes in the part of the city monitored decreased significantly, by almost 50%, whereas the “control” section of the city, in which a crackdown on illegal guns was not enforced, experienced no change in its crime rate.
So what do these statistics mean? Quite clearly, they mean that focusing law enforcement forces specifically upon removing illegal firearms is an effective strategy for decreasing rates of gun crimes, at least temporarily. The study did not show other types of crime decreasing, nor did it show that these results remained for an extended period of time, beyond this initial, uncharacteristic surge of police action.
But the study still provides enough evidence for further action to be taken. Illegal guns clearly have an impact on the crime rate, increasing it to undesirable levels, while restrictions and laws on guns seem only to prevent citizens from having the necessary means to defend themselves.
The solution would appear to be a combination of actions. Combating illegal guns via greater police action makes a great deal of sense, but so does repealing some of the more restrictive gun laws. This would free up resources to then aid in cracking down upon illegal guns, as well as increasing the prevalence of legal guns, which, as shown elsewhere, seems to have a negative effect upon crime rates, too. Thus, law enforcement systems could begin enforcing a policy concerning both legal and illegal firearms that would greatly decrease overall crime.
Such a policy has not been enacted, of course, because there are too many other factors to consider. Even the study performed in Kansas City could not conclusively rule out the presence and role of other factors, as it did take place in a city full of huge numbers of unaccountable variables.
Furthermore, such a policy might not be functional or practical if implemented throughout the country, as illegal firearms in different communities might not be worth the resources they would require to eliminate. Nonetheless, the results of these studies need to be examined in order to determine the future course of America’s relation with guns, both legal and illegal.