News Flash: Criminals Ignore Laws (including gun control laws)

Published by the LearnAboutGuns.com Author on June 12, 2008 at 3:01 am
LearnAboutGuns.com > Pro Gun Rights Articles > News Flash: Criminals Ignore Laws (including gun control laws)

Throughout this site I have pointed out the many problems with gun control. Those problems include the fact that criminals don’t obey laws (including gun control laws), and that failure to obey laws is what makes them criminals. Given the number of people still reaching this site after searching for “reasons to support gun control”, I thought I would further explain why gun control laws won’t prevent crime any better than the laws against murder and other crimes.

Criminals disobey laws
Criminals don’t abide by the laws of our society. Instead, they violate the laws for their own personal gain. It is this very fact that makes them criminals. This should be obvious, but since it is a necessary part of the reasoning I use below, I included it for the sake of completeness.

Gun control is just another law for criminals to disobey
It boggles my mind to see people call for gun control in the wake of a murder. It is especially ridiculous in places like Chicago, which already have an outright ban on handguns, but still have at least 1 handgun shooting every day, and sometimes over 30 in a weekend. Gun control laws are just like any other law, in that people can choose to obey or disobey. A criminal who disobeys the law against murder, which is arguably the most strictly enforced law in our society, is not going to think twice about ignoring a gun ban law.
Some people will then argue that by banning guns all together, we will somehow keep the guns out of the hands of criminals, preventing them from having the guns at all. This reasoning is faulty. Criminals manage to smuggle in millions upon millions of pounds of illegal drugs, and thousands upon thousands of illegal immigrants each year. They can (and do) smuggle in guns right along with the drugs and illegal immigrants. There are also hundreds of millions of guns in the country already. Finally, criminals can and do make guns, since it is not that difficult to make a gun that will work for their purposes. These home made guns (called “zip guns”) may not equal the quality of a fine Springfield 1911 or XD, but they will still kill, as will criminals without guns.

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Gun possession charges don’t scare criminals
That same criminal who is willing to face the severe penalties for murder and other felonies is not going to be deterred by a misdemeanor or petty offense gun possession charge. Using Chicago‘s handgun ban as an example, what criminal would be willing to risk life in prison for murder, but is afraid of a misdemeanor gun charge that only carries up to a year in prison? Even laws with harsher penalties for gun possession won’t deter criminals, since the crime they are committing while using the gun (such as murder, rape, robbery, carjacking, etc) will all have higher penalties already.

Law abiding citizens obey gun control laws and are left vulnerable as a result
The people who will obey the gun bans are the law abiding citizens, who wouldn’t commit crimes in the first place. Such people are the students at universities, the shoppers at malls, and the other good people in society who die in “gun free zones“. They obey the gun bans because they believe in laws, and because they don’t want a criminal conviction on their record. The problem is that these are the very people who we would want to have guns, since they could help stop criminals and otherwise protected themselves and the rest of society.

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I hope this makes the fundamental problem with passing gun control laws clear.

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  • Charles

    Not looking for flame war here, just actually trying to understand as much as I can about this debate. I think most progun control people realize that criminals won't respect gun control laws. But don't they believe that by making it very hard for a criminal to get a gun legally, they have "raised the bar" for obtaining guns? Therefore, it is much harder in strict gun control regions for a criminal to get a gun than if they could walk into any gun shop and just buy one, no (or few) questions asked. Harder in that legal guns are beyond their reach, so guns are more scarce, and harder because of cost (either black market or the risk and effort to steal guns). If criminals can get guns illegally even in strictly controlled regions, wouldn't be just that much more easy for many more of them to get guns where there was no control?

    Also, the idea that gun control leads to crime because the two are always associated (or strongly so) suffers, it seems, from a logical error – the conclusion implies causality, when there may only be correlation. For example, I had a nutty high school history teacher who showed two graphs for a decade of time – one was TV hours watched and the other was rate of violent crime. Over that span, both went up. He concluded that TV causes violent crime! OF course, he could have been equally right (or wrong) and said violent crime causes TV usage.

    So is it that gun control causes violent crime to increase? Or does violent crime cause people to enact gun control laws? Perhaps neither.

    Just so you know where I'm coming from, I was raised very anti-gun, with a lot of Europeans around etc. They really, really don't get America's love affair with firearms. However, I have drifted away from that position of my youth, knowing that if I had to, I would certainly take up arms to defend myself or my family. I realized that guns were the modern worlds sword/bow, and I had no issues with our ancestors defending themselves with those weapons.

    However, I find a lot of the arguments on both sides shaky.

  • http://www.learnaboutguns.com LearnAboutGuns.com

    Charles,

    Thanks for the comment, as as someone who believes in a polite debate, I promise there will be no flame wars here :)

    Here are my (brief) thoughts on the points you raised:

    To start out, I find the "tough" gun control laws you speak of to be incredibly ineffective against criminals. I would use Chicago as an example, where there are some incredibly tough gun laws, yet no shortage of criminals with guns. For example: http://www.learnaboutguns.com/2009/03/07/gun-cont
    Even looking to countries where gun are banned at the national level, we can see that gun control just doesn't work to disarm criminals: http://www.learnaboutguns.com/2009/01/13/british-

    I understand your rebuttal is that such laws at least reduce the number of armed criminals. While it is impossible to say for sure, I really doubt that there is much of a reduction. However, even if there was a reduction in armed criminals, that still wouldn't justify disarming the law abiding citizens, since taking away their guns leaves them vulnerable. Those disarmed law abiding citizens can be victimized by the great many criminals who ignore the gun laws. Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, criminals tend to target physically weaker members of society (e.g. small women, the elderly, etc.) That means that a situation where no one has a gun is often one where the criminal can do terrible things to their victim. Here are a couple examples: http://www.learnaboutguns.com/2009/06/08/another-http://www.learnaboutguns.com/2008/12/02/tragic-p
    But when those victims are armed, things often work out much better: http://www.learnaboutguns.com/tag/self-defense-ex

    Regarding your question of whether gun control *causes* crime, or is merely correlated with it, I would argue that it does cause crime. It is, of course, difficult to really state what causes crime, since there are so many criminals who act for so many different reason. But briefly put, I would say gun control causes crime by emboldening criminals, since a criminal who knows they are less likely to encounter an armed victim will be less afraid to commit their crime. Gun control also reduces the number of criminals that are shot and killed, or shot and then arrested, meaning that those criminals are able to go on to victimize more people. Here are a few articles that expound on that a bit more:
    http://www.learnaboutguns.com/2008/04/30/the-flawhttp://www.learnaboutguns.com/2009/06/22/the-impohttp://www.learnaboutguns.com/2009/03/12/yet-anot

    This reply was rather brief, since it would take me thousands upon thousands of words to fully answer your question. Indeed, fully answering that question is really what this website is about! I would encourage you to take a look around this website, particularly the "pro gun rights" and "armed self defense examples" categories in order to see a full explanation of my reasoning.

  • Charles

    Hi Eric,

    Thanks for your responses. I guess I would need some kind of real data on the issue of whether strict gun control laws have an impact on the criminal population's ability to get guns (isolated examples can't really prove anything). However, on the issue of disarming the "good guys", I think I agree. I live in NY City, and it's probably easier to get mugged than to get a gun permit.

  • http://www.learnaboutguns.com LearnAboutGuns.com

    Charles,

    It is rather hard to prove that exact point, either in favor or against gun rights. But the closest thing I can offer is that gun related crime rose quite sharply in the UK after their gun ban went into effect: http://www.learnaboutguns.com/2008/11/26/more-pro

  • Charles

    Ironically, just came across this in the NY TImes:

    http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/13/busi

    I'm taking your points seriously. Like I said, I'm having a bit of a "turn around" on guns compared to how I was raised. Two weeks I'm going out to Long Island to a firearms training institute to learn hands on. Thanks for your efforts – especially trying to bring facts and considered argument. On both sides of this, like the abortion issue, people just get looney.

  • Eric

    The point is not whether or not honest people should carry guns or not. The constitution says it is my right to defend myself and my family.How many people in the city of Detroit where I live,and others cities around the country who have completely cooperated with an armed robber and have still been shot to death? My wife and I live in a upscale area of the city called Rosedale Park. Usually, when criminals decide to rob and steal,they go to more affluent areas where they think people have things worth stealing. Just the other night ,my wife and I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood. Walking along the street ,I thought to myself ,what if something did happened?What if someone came around the corner or out of the bushes with a gun demanding money, or even worse, tried to drag my wife off somewhere and do God knows what to her, after they have shot and killed me? We were completely unarmed.I am currently in the process of obtaining my concealed weapons permit.Not because I want be a black Dirty Harry or Charles Bronson,but because I love my wife and child. I figure a fighting chance is better than no chance at all.

  • John

    The problem with your argument is that it doesn't consider non-criminals. Are you familiar with the study by Kellermann AL, Rivara FP, Rushforth NB, et al. Gun ownership as a risk factor for homicide in the home. N Engl J Med 1993;329(15):1084-1091?

    From the details of the homicides he concluded that the risk of a crime of passion or other domestic dispute ending in a fatal injury was much higher when a gun was readily available (essentially all the increased risk being in homes where a handgun was kept loaded and unlocked), compared to a lower rate of fatality in domestic violence not involving a firearm. This increase in mortality, he postulated, was large enough to overwhelm any protective effect the presence of a gun might have by deterring or defending against burglaries or home invasions, which occurred much less frequently. The increased risk averaged over all homes containing guns was similar in size to that correlated with an individual with a criminal record living in the home, but substantially less than that associated with demographic factors known to be risks for violence, such as renting a home versus ownership, or living alone versus with others.

  • http://www.learnaboutguns.com LearnAboutGuns.com

    John,

    Thank you for the comment, however I respectfully disagree:

    The long since discredited myth that gun ownership is more dangerous than beneficial was started by Kellermann, in his flawed study “Protection or Peril? An Analysis of Firearms-Related Deaths in the Home.” There were numerous flaws in the study, including the fact that it only counted deaths, which are not a measure of self defense, any more than the number of suspected criminals shot dead by the police is a measure of police effectiveness. To put this more concretely, the majority of self defense gun uses don't result in the criminal dying, or even being shot, and are therefore not counted by that flawed study. Here are some examples you may wish to read:
    http://www.learnaboutguns.com/2009/08/17/husband-http://www.learnaboutguns.com/2008/06/07/pregnanthttp://www.learnaboutguns.com/2008/06/17/citizen-

    I would also direct your attention to this page, which cites a couple of studies which further prove the net live-saving value of gun ownership: http://www.learnaboutguns.com/2008/08/01/every-13

    The fact is that 65 lives are protected for every 2 lives lost, which means that gun ownership is overwhelmingly safe and beneficial, both to the individual and to society. See Dr. Suter’s paper “Guns in the Medical Literature – A Failure of Peer Review.” Journal of the Medical Association of Georgia. Published March 1994.

    Finally, although I think it is now clear that guns save lives, even if your original statement were true, I would still choose to own a gun for self defense. That is because statistics apply to populations, not to individuals. While your "average" American may be X% likely to get a DUI after going to the bar to drink, I am exactly 0% likely to get a DUI, because I never drive drunk. Ever. Similarly, even if, just for the sake of argument, guns really did endanger the "average" American, that doesn't really say much about the danger to me or my family. We are certainly safer than average with guns, and less prone to violence than average.

  • jack

    Incidentally, those who think guns in the home are incredibly dangerous should read Freakonomics.

    If you own a gun and a swimming pool, the swimming pool is almost 100 times more likely to kill a child than the gun is. It's just that children who drown in swimming pools don't make national headlines, and thus the media paradox kicks in; when stories are widely reported owing to their rarity, people are given the impression that they happen often because they're widely reported every time they occur (see shark attacks).

  • jack

    You’ve eloquently described a legal theory that I’ve always subscribed to: Criminals will not hesitate to commit minor offenses if they plan to commit (or are in the process of committing) more serious offenses.

    Your example is a good one. If someone plans to kill another person, he’s not going stop and think, “Wait, I’d be committing a misdemeanor if I carry a handgun, so forget it.” On the contrary, breaking a gun-control law (or several, as did the Columbine shooters) will be the last thing on his mind.

    In the same vein, a bank robber won’t worry about exceeding the posted speed limit as he races off in a getaway car, a stop sign will not be given serious consideration by someone engaged in a high-speed police chase, etc.

    To put it simply: Criminals will not hesitate to commit minor offenses during the commission of more serious offenses. Crimes committed with guns are ALWAYS more serious than the simple breaking of gun-control laws. Therefore, gun-control laws are completely ignored and thus ineffective in curtailing crimes committed with guns.

    Given that this is axiomatic and universal, my question is whether this theory has ever been codified and given a name by legal scholars.

    Thanks.

  • http://alabama.edu.je Alabama Law

    Very nice article you've got there. We have something in common because we both blog about laws & legal systems

  • US Citizen

    Everyone is thinking that keeping guns away from criminals is a good idea…. I think if they are TRULY criminals then they'll find away to get one… However–there are many who have been convicted of Non-Violent crimes and this Law does them No justice…Think about those who want to simply FEED there families by shooting Turkey and Deer—We are not doing them justice by taking this away from them—we are hurting them and there families…As everyone knows the cost of food is a major concern world wide and Yes even here in the States. Think about THAT. Wild Game is far more Healthier than food in the Store. And I also think taking their Right to Vote is so wrong…. Evey one talks about rehabilitating them and making them productive CITIZENS—how can they -when they can't even have a say–in who G ovens us as Americans–We take their rights away to Vote, We take so many rights away from them—so how are they suppose to feel a participate in this society when we take so many of there rights away!!!

  • Smwr ovrhere

    I would like to point out another interesting thing: a professor did a study based on racial backgrounds because he kept hearing people say "the reason there's 'no crime' in Japan is because they're more civil then we are." He studied the crime rates of Japanese-American neighborhoods and found that they had higher crime rates than in Japan. Racial background has NOTHING to do with crime. That's like saying "all blacks commit the crimes." Of course, everyone knows that isn't true at all but the analogy is frequently applied to my home state. I would like to point out that Washington D.C. has very harsh gun laws and it doesn't seem to have much effect on crime. Mexico City has such harsh, brutal anti-gun legislation that they throw people in jail for being in possession of an EMPTY shell. I am not kidding. Mexico City's crime rate is so high that a businessman my dad knows drives a bulletproof car to work and he's still been robbed at gunpoint TWICE. Of course the guns were stolen from either the police or smuggled across the border.