Sunday, January 3, 2016

Maryland's Gun Control That Never Was

Maryland enjoys some of the nation's strictest gun regulations, yet our 2015 firearm death rate is higher than any year since the Civil War.  Baltimore's murder rate is the highest in the City's 286 year history, and total homicides and firearm homicides are second highest in history, despite a shrinking (fleeing) population.  Is our aggressive gun control working?

In the coming days, we'll all hear a lot about "what can be done" about gun crime rates in America.  These are important conversations.  Some successful examples of gun control will be trotted out (yes, they exist), and some of them are worth considering, as a civil society.  However, Maryland's 2013 gun control law will be inflated (or conflated) as an example of success, and I thought I'd provide some perspective on it.  I hope you enjoy this piece, or at least find it informative.   Warning:  I welcome comments, even those in disagreement, but I do not tolerate an ignorance of facts or insulting tones or language on this site. 

Less than 75 days after Maryland's Firearm Safety Act of 2013 (FSA), one of the nation's strictest gun laws, went into place, a gun control lobbyist  published an editorial in the Baltimore Sun that led with the statement, "Maryland gun law is saving lives."   The gun control lobbyists didn't mention that those 75 days included a period of record cold and near-record precipitation, both factors that can impact gun violence rates.  Six months later, the lobbyists published another editorial, this time in the Maryland Reporter, simply titled "Maryland Firearms Law is Saving Lives."   That's right, despite the complexities inherent to criminology, crime solving, and crime reporting, this well-paid lobbyist insisted that eight months (!!) is all that's necessary to judge the value of a law.  Gun rights advocates have accused gun control lobbyists of lying, mis-using statistics, and all other brands of...well....lobbying.    I do have to wonder if some of these newspaper editorials were crafted before the data was even available.  Honestly, that's what I would do.   But it does present a bit of a quandary when batting away gun rights advocates' claims that the gun law isn't working, "It hasn't had time!"  Well, gun control lobbyists began stating that the law was clearly working, 75 days after its implementation.  They're on record believing that the law works - that it is working.

But as we fast forward to early 2016, we see a different Maryland - one that gun control advocates really hoped wouldn't, or couldn't, exist.   While 2015 crime statistics are still being tallied, a safe estimate is that in 2015, Maryland citizens were victims of over 500 firearm homicides and nearly 1,000 nonfatal shootings.    These are drastic increases from statistics prior to FSA's enactment in October, 2013, and they mean something.  24/7 Wall Street  calls post-FSA Maryland one of America's most dangerous states (#8).

Baltimore, Maryland, with an other-worldly violent crime rate of over 1,500 reported incidents per 100,000 residents, itself holds a place as America's #8 Most Dangerous City (2014, 24/7 Wall Street), America's #7 Most Dangerous City (2014, Forbes), America's #7 Most Dangerous City (2014, Huffington Post), #10 Least Livable City (2015, Areavibes), #36 World's Most Dangerous City (2014, Business Insider), #40 World's Most Dangerous City (2015, Business Insider).....should I go on?

Despite all of this, gun control advocates want to believe very badly that FSA is working.  That despite the fact that Maryland's firearm death rate was higher per capita in 2015 than any year since the Civil War, that somehow, gun control is working.   They believe, since they can no longer claim that the law is "saving lives," that without the law, "perhaps even more people would have been killed!"

On December 26, 2015, the Baltimore Sun published an article entitled "Weapons used in Maryland Crimes Often Purchased in Other States."   This is an important claim, because it attempts to explain away FSA's failure by proposing that neighboring states each need to pass their own FSA.  Then, and only then, can gun control work!   Gun control advocates in my social circles re-broadcasted this Baltimore Sun article far and wide, never actually reading it.

It's a shame they didn't read it, because the article shows that while an alarming 43% 5,709 of traceable Maryland crime guns originated in other states, 57% of traceable Maryland crime guns originated in highly-regulated post-FSA Maryland.    Why is that important?  It's important that, first of all, a large number of guns used to commit serious crimes in Maryland were not traceable - meaning that they are in no way impacted by our gun control law (FSA).  Second, that FSA was intended to directly tackle crime guns originating in Maryland - and two years after FSA was implemented, nearly 2/3 of all identifiable crime guns still originate in Maryland.   "But it's much better than it was before our new law," some will say.

But here's the last year before FSA (2013).   Over 4,700 traceable crime guns were collected. 59% of traceable Maryland crime guns originated in pre-FSA Maryland.    Gun control advocates had promised that this number would fall to nearly 0%, and yet it fell from 59% to 57% - not a statistically significant reduction. Meanwhile, the total number of crime guns actually increased. 

From a strictly statistical standpoint (when it comes to traceable illegal gun sales), it cannot be argued that the Firearm Safety Act is working.  So if someone tells you it is, they are either lying or are trying to wish it into being true.

I do believe that improvements in gun control must be made.  But the language of the Constitution is important, or at least it was six months ago in Obergefell v. Hodges, when the Supreme Court asserted that the rights listed in the Constitution apply equally without prejudice to the individual citizens of the United States.  You'll recognize the case name as "the gay marriage case."

This nation has a long way to go in terms of finding way to keep our 300-400 million guns out of the hands of patently evil, sick, and unstable people, and (in my opinion) out of the hands of citizens with any violent history of criminality.   But if I can leave you with one thought, it's a request to dig deep into the proposals you hear about in the next several days.   Some of them might make a difference, others (demonstrably) will not.  Some will impact constitutional rights in a way that - if validated by federal courts - will have impacts upon other enumerated constitutional rights.   Let's put on our thinking caps and do this right.   If, like Maryland's Firearm Safety Act, it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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