If our states are supposed to be laboratories of democracy, then the past decade’s rush to loosen gun control laws on the state level should tell us something.
And, indeed, we’re starting to see some results:
In Missouri, Fewer Gun Restrictions and More Gun Killings
In the past decade, Missouri has been a natural experiment in what happens when a state relaxes its gun control laws. For decades, it had one of the nation’s strongest measures to keep guns from dangerous people: a requirement that all handgun buyers get a gun permit by undergoing a background check in person at a sheriff’s office.
But the legislature repealed that in 2007 and approved a flurry of other changes, including, last year, lowering the legal age to carry a concealed gun to 19. What has followed may help answer a central question of the gun control debate: Does allowing people to more easily obtain guns make society safer or more dangerous?
Research by Daniel Webster, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, found that in the first six years after the state repealed the requirement for comprehensive background checks and purchase permits, the gun homicide rate was 16 percent higher than it was the six years before. During the same period, the national rate declined by 11 percent. After Professor Webster controlled for poverty and other factors that could influence the homicide rate, and took into account homicide rates in other states, the result was slightly higher, rising by 18 percent in Missouri.
Federal death data released this month for 2014 showed a continuation of the trend, he said. Before the repeal, from 1999 to 2006, Missouri’s gun homicide rate was 13.8 percent higher than the national rate. From 2008 to 2014, it was 47 percent higher. (The new data also showed that the national death rate from guns was equal to that from motor vehicle crashes for the first time since the government began systematically tracking it.)
Of course, the NRA will tell you that because the homicide rate is so high, everyone needs to be armed “to protect myself and my family.” Nice how that works.
As this story makes clear, the people most affected by these changes are poor, usually in urban neighborhoods, and people of color. The NRA meme is broadcast straight to rural whites; the impact is felt by urban African American neighborhoods. And the gun makers profit. Same as it ever was:
“There is this idea that law-abiding citizens’ rights are being secured,” said Richard Rosenfeld, a professor of criminology at the University of Missouri, St. Louis. “In fact, it’s the people most inclined to do harm whose privileges are being secured.”
As Rosilyn Temple tells it, guns have become so prevalent in her Kansas City neighborhood that owning one is about as common as owning a cellphone. “You can’t buy liquor, but you can carry a gun,” she said, alluding to the legal age to obtain a concealed carry permit. The legal age to buy alcohol in Missouri is 21.
Republicans love to say, “we don’t need new gun control laws, we just need to enforce the ones we have.” Meanwhile, they pass legislation making it harder to do just that:
The changes have complicated the daily work of the police. Col. D. Samuel Dotson III, the police chief in St. Louis, said a recent change that made it legal to carry a firearm in a vehicle without a permit had made it harder for officers to connect an illegal gun to a person during a traffic stop. Professor Rosenfeld, of the University of Missouri, analyzed hundreds of arrests involving guns from 2011 and found that 40 percent of the cases were never prosecuted, because the change made it harder to prove the charges.
Who does this make sense to? Republicans raking in the NRA cash, of course.
If our states are supposed to be laboratories of democracy, then the people are guinea pigs.
BTW, if you haven’t seen Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq yet, go.