Violent Misinformation Campaign

Don't look to the government and the media to explain drops in violent crime

By Dave Kopel, Dr. Paul Gallant, & Dr. Joanne Eisen of the Independence Institute

9/15/00 10:30 a.m., National Review Online. More by Kopel on the Brady Act.


Violent Crime Falls" blared the headline of a recent story from the Associated Press.

The U.S. Justice Department reported the lowest figures since 1973, with the violent crime rate dropping by 10.4% last year, the largest one-year drop on record.

Among reasons cited by "academics" for the drop in crime was "anti-gun campaigns by local police and federal gun controls."

That's a rather curious explanation, however, given a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association just a few weeks earlier.

In a paper entitled "Homicide and Suicide Rates Associated with Implementation of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act", authors Jens Ludwig and Philip Cook reported on the efficacy of the most-touted gun-control law in recent history: the Brady Act. Admitted the authors, "our analyses provide no evidence that implementation of the Brady Act was associated with a reduction in homicide rates."

Numerous attempts have been made in recent years to explain what seems to be a puzzle to criminologists: the decrease in violent crime. Contained in the October 1998 National Institute of Justice Journal, from the U.S. Department of Justice, was a compendium of essays by a variety of criminologists doing their best to explain "Crime's Decline — Why?" An impressive array of researchers professed to grapple with the puzzling decline of violent crime rates. But despite all their speculation, they admitted they really hadn't a clue.

Notably absent from the criminal justice establishment and the media establishment is any discussion of one of the major causes of violent crime: the government's doomed-to-fail "war on drugs." As Yale researcher Dr. John Lott observed, referring to those "hotspots" of crime:

…many murders, in urban areas in particular, are due to drug gangs fighting against each other in order to try and control drug turf. As the amount of drug interdiction has gone down, we have seen more drugs coming into the country from more sources — and the profits that have been associated with the gangs controlling drug turf have gone down. So their incentive to fight against each other has gone down.

Likewise absent from establishment theorizing has been self-defense and deterrence. Today, 31 states allow law-abiding adults to obtain permits to carry handguns for lawful protection. Such laws were rare in 1980, but today, it is the states without such laws that are the exception.

According to Dr. Lott, murder rates in states without handgun carry laws are 127-percent higher, on average, than in states having liberal concealed-carry laws.

Nobody really understands all of the causes for rising and falling crime rates. If we want to improve our understanding, then we must not imitate the studious blindness of the federal government and the establishment media: we need to be willing to investigate the beneficial effects of firearms in law-abiding hands, and the deadly effects of the drug war.

"You can't handle the truth," snarled Jack Nicholson in the movie A Few Good Men. Whether Americans have a greater ability than the American establishment to handle the truth about crime remains to be seen.

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