William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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MORE ON THE GUN ISSUE – AT 8:45 A.M. ET:  We've said repeatedly here that we have no problem with Constitutional, effective measures to reduce violence committed with guns.  What we oppose are illusions and phony prescriptions that do no good or make matters worse. 

The Washington Times has an excellent piece that illustrates how deceptive "gun control" measures can be:

President Obama has called for stricter federal gun laws to combat recent shooting rampages, but a review of recent state laws by The Washington Times shows no discernible correlation between stricter rules and lower gun-crime rates in the states.

States that ranked high in terms of making records available to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System also tended to have tighter gun laws — but their gun-crime rates ranged widely. The same was true for states that ranked poorly on disclosure and were deemed to have much less stringent gun-possession laws.

For example, New York, even before it approved the strictest gun-control measures in the country last week, was ranked fourth among the states in strength of gun laws by the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence, but was also in the top 10 in firearm homicide rates in 2011, according to the FBI.

Meanwhile, North Dakota was near the bottom in its firearm homicide, firearm robbery and firearm assault rates, but also had some of the loosest gun laws and worst compliance with turning over mental health records to the background check system.

Analysts said the data underscore that there are no simple or easy broad answers to combating gun violence, which is a complex equation involving gun-ownership rates, how ready authorities are to prosecute gun crimes and how widely they ban ownership.

Gary Kleck, a criminology professor at Florida State University, said in an email that a simple comparison between states’ strength of gun laws and gun-crime rates doesn’t say much about the effects of the laws because the exercise fails to control for other factors such as gun-ownership rates.

In an exhaustive analysis with data from 170 U.S. cities that did control for such factors, Mr. Kleck and fellow researcher E. Britt Patterson concluded that there was no general impact of gun-control laws on crime rates — with a few notable exceptions.

“There do appear to be some gun controls which work, all of them relatively moderate, popular and inexpensive,” the researchers wrote. “Thus, there is support for a gun-control policy organized around gun-owner licensing or purchase permits (or some other form of gun-buyer screening); stricter local dealer licensing; bans on possession of guns by criminals and mentally ill people; stronger controls over illegal carrying; and possibly discretionary add-on penalties for committing felonies with a gun.

“On the other hand, popular favorites such as waiting periods and gun registration do not appear to affect violence rates,” he said.

COMMENT:  It's nice to know that some people are actually doing serious research.  Please note that Joe Biden's commission on violence committed with guns took a whole month (gee whiz) to look at the entire subject and make recommendations.  That is a farce, and an embarrassment to the country.

Ultimately, in any society with guns, the surest form of gun control is the responsible, law-abiding citizen.  That, of course, is an area many politicians would prefer not to enter because it involves sensitivities.  Gun crimes, after all, are not distributed evenly through the population. 

Those effective measures that can be taken are effective only if they are applied vigorously, honestly, and quickly:  thorough background checks, mental-health screening, and, very important, harsh prosecution of crimes committed with guns.  The certainty of punishment as always been a great deterrent.

We might also ask the simple question, "What works?"  Amazing how rarely that question is asked.  The reason, of course, is that conservative law-enforcement principles are often the ones that work, and the trendies have little interest in that discussion.

January 25, 2013