HANDGUN CONTROL AND CRIME

by Julian Heicklen

A current discussion in U.S. politics is the effect of handgun controls on violent crime. Those in favor of strict handgun control laws argue that such laws decrease the amount of violent crime. Those opposed to such laws argue that "Guns don't kill­people do," and that gun control laws only control law-abiding citizens that do not kill. The purpose of this article is to examine this discussion based on the facts.

Brady (1997) has rated each state based on the severity of its handgun control laws. The states with the strongest handgun control laws are rated A; that with weakest handgun control law (Vermont) is rated F-. The ratings are given in Table 1. I have converted the letter rating to a numerical rating based on the conversion used at Penn State University (PSU): A = 4, B = 3, C = 2, D = 1, F = 0, + = 0.3, ­ = ­0.3. These also are listed in Table 1.

Maguire and Pastore (1997) give the number of murders and non-negligent manslaughters per 100,000 population for each state for 1995. These data also are listed in Table 1 by state. The same source also lists the percent of all violent crime that is firearm related for 1995. Those data are included in Table 1.
 
 

TABLE 1: SEVERITY OF HANDGUN CONTROL LAWS AND VIOLENT CRIME BY STATE

PSU Converted HCI Gradea

M&M per 100,000 for 1995b

% Firearm-Related Violent Crime for 1995c

HCI Letter Graded

State

­­

65

31.7

­­

District of Columbia

­0.3

2.2

26.5

F-

Vermont

0

0.9

6.0

F

North Dakota

0

1.8

15.6

F

New Hampshire

0

1.8

19.0

F

South Dakota

0

3.0

26.2

F

Montana

0

4.1

28.3

F

Idaho

0

5.1

24.4

F

Washington

0

6.3

37.4

F

Pennsylvania

0

8.0

20.3

F

Indiana

0

9.5

33.0

F

Georgia

0.7

2.1

15.1

D-

Wyoming

0.7

3.9

21.2

D-

Utah

0.7

4.9

18.1

D-

West Virginia

0.7

7.6

27.7

D-

Virginia

1.0

4.1

23.8

D

Oregon

1.0

10.7

28.2

D

Nevada

1.0

12.9

41.0

D

Mississippi

1.3

7.3

26.3

D+

Florida

1.3

7.9

26.0

D+

South Carolina

1.3

10.4

36.5

D+

Arizona

1.3

10.6

36.7

D+

Tennessee

1.7

2.0

10.3

C-

Maine

1.7

7.2

24.7

C-

Kentucky

1.7

9.0

31.1

C-

Texas

1.7

9.1

25.6

C-

Alaska

1.7

9.4

33.4

C-

North Carolina

1.7

10.4

33.9

C-

Arkansas

1.7

12.2

23.5

C-

Oklahoma

1.7

17.0

42.0

C-

Louisiana

2.3

4.6

22.2

C+

Connecticut

2.3

5.8

27.9

C+

Colorado

2.7

3.3

14.0

B-

Rhode Island

2.7

3.5

29.2

B-

Delaware

2.7

4.7

13.1

B-

Hawaii

2.7

11.2

30.8

B-

Alabama

3.0

3.6

11.5

B

Massachusetts

3.0

8.5

23.2

B

New York

3.0

8.5

31.2

B

Michigan

3.0

11.2

27.1

B

California

3.0

11.8

34.6

B

Maryland

3.3

1.8

14.5

B+

Iowa

3.3

3.9

24.4

B+

Minnesota

3.7

5.1

23.9

A-

New Jersey

4.0

2.9

22.7

A

Nebraska

4.0

4.3

30.2

A

Wisconsin

4.0

5.4

28.7

A

Ohio

4.0

6.2

30.1

A

Kansas

4.0

8.8

32.6

A

New Mexico

4.0

8.8

35.2

A

Missouri

4.0

10.3

36.1

A

Illinois

PSU Converted HCI Grade

M&M per 100,000 for 1995b

% Firearm-Related Violent Crime for 1995c

HCI Letter Graded

State

aNumber grade from Penn State University conversion formula.
bMurders and non-negligent manslaughters per 100,000 population for 1995 from Maguire and Pastore (1997) Table 3.110, p. 318.
cPercent of violent crime that is firearm-related for 1995 from Maguire and Pastore (1997) Table 3.111, p. 319.
dHandgun Control Institute grade from Brady (1997).

  Table 2 lists the average values for 1995 of the murders and non-negligent manslaughters per 100,000 population, as well as the average percent of all violent crime that is firearm related, for each PSU converted grade given by the Handgun Control Institute (HCI).

TABLE 2: AVERAGE M&M PER 100,000 POPULATION AND PERCENT FIREARM-RELATED VIOLENT CRIME FOR 1995 VS. SEVERITY OF HANDGUN CONTROL LAWS

PSU Converted HCI Grade

Average M&M per 100,000 for 1995

Average % Firearm-Related Violent Crime for 1995

-0.3

2.2

26.5

0.0

4.5

23.4

0.3

­­

­­

0.7

4.6

20.5

1.0

9.2

31.0

1.3

9.0

31.4

1.7

9.5

28.1

2.0

Ñ

Ñ

2.3

5.2

25.0

2.7

5.7

21.8

3.0

8.7

25.5

3.3

5.4

19.4

3.7

5.1

23.9

4.0

6.7

30.8

 

Figure 1 shows plots of the average number of murders and non-negligent manslaughters per 100,000 population for 1995 and the average percent of violent crimes that are firearm related for 1995 vs. the PSU converted HCI handgun control grade. There is no apparent trend of either indicator of violent crime with the handgun control grade. The value for 1995 of the average number of murders and manslaughters is about 6 ± 4 per 100,000 population, and that for the average percent of all violent crime that is firearm related is 26 ± 6 %. It can be concluded that handgun control laws have no discernible effect on violent crime rates.

  Average Figure 1. Value of the state murders and non-negligent manslaughters per 100,000 population for 1995 and percent of state violent crimes that are firearm related for 1995 versus Penn State University converted Handgun Control Institute grade for handgun control laws.

  REFERENCES  

Brady, Sarah (1997)Year End Report for 1997, Handgun Control Institute, http://handguncontrol.org/press/conceal.htm (Washington, DC)

Maguire, Kathleen and Ann L. Pastore (1997) Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics 1996, U. S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, NCJö165361.