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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

Egg Gun
"The possession of arms by the people is the ultimate warrant that government governs only with the consent of the governed."
-Jeff Snyder

Gun ownership skyrocketed when President Obama took office; its the one part of the economy which has gotten significantly better. Americans, concerned that a hard left Democratic party had taken over both the legislative and executive branches of the federal government, decided they wanted to buy and own guns before the laws started coming out making them illegal to buy.

As it turned out, the Democrats appear to have finally figured out that trying to restrict or remove 2nd amendment guarantees is political suicide, so they haven't really done much about guns (other than a few minor executive orders).

If you are on the left, you'd expect from this rise in gun ownership that violent crime, accidents involving guns, and other gun-related problems would have increased. In fact, since the left is convinced that it is poverty that drives crime and poverty is at an all time high due to the bad economy and unemployment rates, you'd think crime overall would be a serious problem now.

You'd be wrong. For instance, in state parks of Tennessee, it is legal to carry concealed weapons. Imagine all the things that could go wrong! Gun battles like the OK Corral, kids caught in crossfire, accidental shootings, and more! Except as Andy Sher writes in the Times Free Press:
In the 15 months since Tennessee handgun-carry permit holders got the right to go armed in state parks, two gun-related incidents have been reported at state facilities and neither resulted in violence, officials said.

“I am pleasantly surprised,” said Tennessee Environment and Conservation Commissioner Jim Fyke, who in 2009 lobbied against the so-called “guns in parks” bill. “I believed that it was not a good idea.”
...
“Everybody predicted all these shootouts,” [state representative] Nicely said. “What they miss is we’re talking about law-abiding citizens here. We’re not talking about crooks.”
None of the horrors people predicted took place. In fact, violent crime rates are dropping even as people are buying so many guns. At The Gun Counter, Bob Owens writes:
  • Each of the violent crime categories decreased from 2008—murder (7.3 percent), robbery (8.0 percent), aggravated assault (4.2 percent), and forcible rape (2.6 percent).
  • During 2009, 43.9 percent of all property crimes in the U.S. were recorded in the South, with 22.7 percent in the West, 20.8 percent in the Midwest, and 12.6 percent in the Northeast.
  • Each of the property crime categories also dropped from 2008—motor vehicle theft (17.1 percent), larceny-theft (4.0 percent), and burglary (1.3 percent).
  • Among the 1,318,398 violent crimes were 15,241 murders; 88,097 forcible rapes; 408,217 robberies; and 806,843 aggravated assaults.
  • Among the 9,320,971 property crimes were an estimated 2,199,125 burglaries; 6,327,230 larceny-thefts; 794,616 thefts of motor vehicles; and 58,871 arsons.
  • During 2009, the South accounted for 42.5 percent of all violent crime in the nation, followed by the West (22.9 percent), the Midwest (19.6 percent), and the Northeast (15.0 percent).
This all occurred in the same year that Americans purchased 14 million firearms—more than the combined active armies of the top 21 countries in the world. We also purchased an estimated 14+ billion rounds of ammunition during that same time period.
More guns, less violent crime, could there be a connection?

There's no clear causal relationship here. What I mean is that there's no proof that more guns = less violent crime, but there's no proof that isn't taking place, either. However, there's another piece of the puzzle to consider.

Voters, sick of increasing crime levels in the US, started to pass more and more strict sentencing and longer prison time laws, as well as politicians who'd vote for the same. Over the country, everyone got tough on crime and started cracking down, hard, on repeat offenders and violent crime. In other words, people aren't allowed on the streets to continue their crimes as soon, and that means the overall levels are dropping.

Is there some deterrent effect? Its hard to say, but then that's never been the point of punishment, anyway. Punishment for crime is supposed to be about justice, not rehabilitation or deterrence. Do wrong, pay the price. What we do know is that President Obama has decided that there's too many people in prison. The possibility that crime is down because these people in prison seems to be trumped by the concern that people might be unhappy and uncomfortable. Josh Gerstein writes at Politico:
At the urging of a conservative Democrat, Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia, the House passed a bill in July to create a federal commission to study criminal sentences. The measure cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier in the year with little resistance from Republicans.

“I think the political landscape around the issue is shifting and I think that will provide room for the administration to address some of these issues,” said Jennifer Bellamy of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Advocates point to several reasons for the shift toward a less-draconian approach to crime and for its decline as a hot-button political issue. Crime rates are at some of the lowest levels in a generation. Stories of offenders who got decades behind bars for minor roles in drug operations have generated some public sympathy. States and the federal government are grappling with huge budget woes, raising doubts about policies that are causing prison populations - and costs - to go up.
Finally, the gun control types in Australia seem to be taking it too far even for that country. The Queensland state government has considering legislation requiring any gun shaped object that can "reasonably be taken to be a weapon" to be treated as a real gun - including licensing and other laws. Robyn Ironside writes at the Courier-Mail:
"If it looks like a gun and feels like a gun, it will have to be licensed," said a government source.

"We just want to know where they are."

It is unclear how the draft affects toy guns.

Failure to license an imitation weapon will carry a maximum $4500 fine under the proposals and incorrect storage carries a penalty of $750.

The proposed changes will also impose restrictions on the ownership of laser pointers, tougher penalties for selling items such as crossbows, bullet proof vests and knuckledusters without the appropriate licence, and stricter rules on firearm storage. In certain circumstances, religion will be a lawful excuse for carrying a knife and police who take their service-issue firearms home will be exempted.
That pistol-shaped lighter? License it. The squirt gun? Cap gun? Bar of soap carved like a gun and painted black? License it. Its for the children.
*UPDATE (both courtesy Tim Blair): Texas has a bank which encourages concealed carry. Try to rob that place and you might not make it to the door.

Meanwhile, Oregon's DVMs specifically ban guns at the door. The reason? They're worried about carjackings. At driver's tests, in which presumably the driver owns the car already. Actually its not exactly clear what they are worried about, from the article.

2 Comments:

Anonymous eric said...

I thought the Freakonomics guy made a pretty good argument about the cause (or one of the causes) of declining crime rates as well: In today's society the people most likely to become violent criminals are also the most likely to be aborted by their mothers before ever drawing a breath. Not pretty, or any kind of justification, but I thought he made a pretty good case for causality in that book.

12:20 PM, September 15, 2010  
Blogger Texas Shooter said...

I read somewhere that you have to have a Permit to own a baseball bat in Poland.

Given the leeway, lawmakers will make more laws, stupid though they may be.

2:37 PM, September 15, 2010  

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