No wrongheaded idea in all of American political life is more difficult to dislodge than the idea that more guns, and fewer gun-control laws, leads inevitably to more crime. The claim is a constant refrain of politicians who seek to shirk responsibility for crime; it is the supposition that undergirds every call for Draconian regulation and disarmament; it is the working assumption of the mainstream media, which, having been fully co-opted by activist groups, is happy to repeat it at every opportunity.
Trouble is: It’s false. Indeed, it is nonsense.
Between 1990 and 2013, the number of guns owned by Americans more than doubled. Over the same period, a whole host of restrictive laws were repealed at both the state and federal levels. And yet, during those two decades of change, homicides involving firearms were cut in half. Does this surprise you? It shouldn’t. The world is a complex place, full of complex relationships. People, not inanimate objects, break laws.
Alas, this reality is still entirely alien to America’s relentless gun-control activists—some of whom have become so attached to the notion that they have taken to compiling lists of “good” and “bad” states that are predicated upon what politicians have attempted to do to infringe on our rights, rather on what they have actually done about crime.
Thus it is that Everytown for Gun Safety places California (6.1 murders per 100,000 people) at the top of its rankings, places New York (4.7 per 100,000) second and places Illinois (11.2 per 100,000) seventh—and describes them as “National Leaders” in the bargain—while calling New Hampshire (0.9 per 100,000 residents—the lowest rate in the United States) a “national failure” and putting it at number 39 in the list. For them, it’s not about safety; it’s about control.
In its marketing materials, Everytown claims that its rankings show “which states are ahead and which are behind.” Really, though, they do nothing of the sort. Per Everytown’s own twisted numbers, California has a “Gun Violence Rate” of 9, while New Hampshire’s is 8.3. But, apparently, that doesn’t matter. What matters is that California has more gun control than New Hampshire. California’s “Gun Law Strength” is 86.5, according to Everytown. New Hampshire’s “Gun Law Strength” is 9. So, California wins.
The same approach explains why Illinois (“Gun Violence Rate” of 16.1; “Gun Law Strength” of 77) sits at number seven in Everytown’s rankings, while South Dakota (“Gun Violence Rate” of 14.3; “Gun Law Strength” of 5.5) is all the way down at number 45. Like so many groups of its type, Everytown simply cannot get past its infantile understanding of the world: Guns are bad; states that don’t restrict guns are dangerous; whatever you do, don’t look at the details.
Ultimately, the worst victims of Everytown’s approach are the innocent people who could plausibly have been helped by a smarter approach to public policy, but who are ignored—and even endangered—by a set of intransigent political ideologues who believe all manner of things that simply aren’t true. At present, it seems that America is filled to the rafters with powerful people who have resolved to govern by slogan alone. President Biden’s team will tweet something; this or that governor will offer up a boast about how much more difficult they have made it for the law-abiding citizens to carry; a big-city prosecutor will decline to prosecute actual bad guys … and then, having finished their work for the day, they will all go about their merry way hoping no one will notice that their policies, actions and rhetoric are actually just making things worse for law-abiding citizens.