It is often assumed without any deeper thought that decreased possession of firearms among the populace will lead to decreased crime rates. After all, without guns, then all crimes that are caused with the aid of firearms would become nonexistent. But statistically, this has not been borne out; some of the areas of America with the greatest amount of gun control firearms, and therefore the lowest levels of legal gun possession, still have the highest crime rates.
Simultaneously, however, there are examples set by other nations in the world, which clearly have decreased gun crimes as a result of their strict laws concerning possession of firearms. The United Kingdom, for instance, has numerous laws restricting gun possession, and gun crimes are very rare events in that country.
Does gun possession, then, decrease crime? Or do laws allowing for citizens to have access to firearms simply make it easier for criminals to have access, as well? Jeremy D. Banks, PhD, argues for the former. He first of all points out that the 1993 Brady Act, which is an attempt to further limit gun possession by making background checks more important for gun ownership, has had no discernible effect upon crime rates.
He then targets the UK, citing the fact that although gun crime is low in Britain, other violent crimes are at incredibly high levels. The UK’s restrictions on the possession of firearms have, indeed, reduced gun crimes, but they have not at all reduced overall crimes. According to Banks, the UK has higher crime rates than the USA in almost every violent crime, except murder and rape. Clearly, then, the fact that the UK’s citizens do not have the right of gun possession has not done much to reduce overall crime; only gun crimes have been lowered.
Banks isn’t the only one to point out these discrepancies about gun possession and crime rates. John R. Lott, Jr., author of the book, More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws, argues strongly for the use of guns to help deter crime. He puts the point most plainly when he responds to an interviewer’s question about the counter-intuitive nature of this phenomena.
Banks says that gun possession essentially increases the potential penalty of any given crime, and greater penalties lead to a decrease in whatever action is penalized. Because a criminal might be meeting with a victim who might be possession of firearms, that criminal will generally be deterred from taking the same kind of actions that he or she might have taken otherwise.
It still remains to be conclusively proven that greater prominence of gun possession can lead to decreased crime, as other factors could account for differences in the crime rates between those places that have high gun restrictions, and those places that allow for easy possession of firearms.
For instance, it could be that the areas with the least crime, and the least gun restrictions, could be the most rural parts of the country where the fewest people live, where close contact between those people is rare, and where crime in general would be less likely to occur. But the facts are strong enough to at least throw doubt onto that general assumption that decreased possession of firearms would lead to decreased crime.