Do Guns Cause Crime?





Mr. Kates is a retired professor of constitutional and criminal law, and a criminologist associated with the Pacific Research Institute (San Francisco). He is co-author of ARMED: NEW PERSPECTIVES ON GUN CONTROL (Prometheus, 2001). A member of both Handgun Control Inc. and the National Rifle Association, he has been bitterly criticized by both. As a civil liberties lawyer he has represented gun owners attacking the constitutionality of certain firearms laws.


INTRODUCTION

In Guns and Violence: The English Experience (Harvard, 2002), historian Joyce Lee Malcolm applies the tools of history to the vexatious question "Do Guns Cause Violence?" As a criminologist, not an historian, I do not presume to offer a book review, but only try to place Malcolm's contribution in the context of extant social scientific and historical evidence on that question.

Clearly guns "cause" crime by aiding those inclined to crime. That follows from the gun lobby's claim that firearms are useful for self-defense. The relevant issues are summarized in an address to the National Academy of Sciences by the doyen of gun control studies, Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck:

The best currently available evidence, imperfect though it is (and must always be), indicates that general gun availability has no measurable net positive effect on [crime] rates.... This is not [to] say gun availability has no effects on violence - it has many ... but these effects work in both violence-increasing and violence-decreasing directions, with the effects largely canceling out. For example, when aggressors have guns, they are (1) less likely to physically attack their victims, (2) less likely to injure the victim given an attack, but (3) more likely to kill the victim, given an injury. Further, when victims have guns, it is less likely aggressors will attack or injure them and less likely they will lose property in a robbery. [Taken together] ... the best available time series and cross-sectional studies [show that], the overall net effect of gun availability on total rates of violence is not significantly different from zero. [Emphasis in original.]1

So much for the effects of gun possession by criminals. A very different theory sees gun possession as causing murder by ordinary people not pre-disposed to crime. This theory holds that thousands of "gun murders [are committed] by law-abiding citizens who might have stayed law-abiding if they had not possessed firearms" -- for "the majority of homicide victims die not as a result of criminal activity, but because of arguments between people who know each other.... not from 'guns in the wrong hands,' but from the virtually unregulated distribution of an inherently dangerous consumer product...."2

PER CONTRA: HOMICIDE STUDIES FROM THE 19TH CENTURY TO DATE3

This theory's attribution of murders to ordinary people flies in the face of 100+ years of homicide studies. These show that, far from being ordinary people, "the vast majority of persons involved in life-threatening violence have a long criminal record with many prior contacts with the justice system."4

Though only 15% of Americans have criminal records, roughly 90 percent of adult murderers have adult records, with an average career of six or more adult years, including four major felonies. Juvenile crime records are generally unavailable, but to the extent they are, juvenile killers have crime careers as extensive or more than do adult killers -- and so do their victims. Typical findings of 19th and 20th Century homicide studies: "the great majority of both perpetrators and victims of [1970s Harlem] assaults and murders had previous [adult] arrests, probably over 80% or more" as also did Savannah murderers and victims in both the 1890s and the 1990s; exclusive of all other crimes they had committed, 80% of 1997 Atlanta murder arrestees had at least one prior drug offense with 70% having 3 or more prior drug offenses;5 1960s-'70s Philadelphia "victims as well as offenders, finally, tended to be people with prior police records, usually for violent crimes such as assault, and both had typically been drinking at the time of the fatal encounter."6

Research beyond police records further documents the aberrance of murderers. Thus: in psychological studies 80-100% of juveniles who kill are psychotic or have psychotic symptoms7; though only 75% of Massachusetts domestic murderers in 1991-95 "had a prior [adult] criminal history," 23.6% "were under an active restraining order at the time of the homicide. Forty percent of perpetrators had a history of having been under a restraining order at some time prior to the homicide, taken out by the victim or some other person."8

Typical of "acquaintance homicides" in general are: drug dealers killed by competitors or customers; gang members killed by members of the same or rival gangs; and women killed by brutal, predatory men. Studies analyzing "family homicides" demonstrate that these are not ordinary families; e.g., "intrafamily homicide is typically just one episode in a long standing syndrome of violence." -- "The overriding theme to emerge from these cases was that [domestic] partner homicide is most often the final outcome of chronic women battering."9

In sum, it cannot be true that possession of firearms causes ordinary people to murder -- for murderers are virtually never ordinary, but rather are extreme aberrants with life histories of crime, psychopathology and/or substance abuse.

ENGLAND AND THE U.S. THROUGH THE 19TH CENTURY

Homicide did not increase with the invention of firearms, but instead seems to have fallen sharply as guns became more efficient and widely owned in England, much of Europe and Scandinavia.10 By the 18th Century, colonial Americans were the most heavily armed people in the world," yet murders were "rare" and "few" involved guns "despite their wide availability."11

American homicide remained low until the 1840s.12 Relatively modern rapid-fire weapons only became common after the Civil War when hundreds of thousands of military surplus revolvers and lever action rifles were sold. Yet, far from rising in the post-Civil War era, homicide fell off sharply from the 1870s to 1900 -- despite the 1870s mass marketing of cheap "Saturday Night Specials."13

Though these historical facts are suggestive, they cannot refute claims that guns cause homicide. The English homicide decline, for instance, dates from the 13th Century. Since this was long before firearms, that decline may stem from other factors and not necessarily imply anything about guns causing crime. Nor before the late 19th Century in England, and the mid-20th Century in the U.S., were data on homicide detailed, while data about distribution of firearms are even worse. Roth disputes Lane's generalization (see fn. 11) and suggests both early American murder rates and the extent of gun murders varied greatly between differing areas and time periods.14

MORE RECENT HISTORICAL EVIDENCE

Malcolm's appendix presents less problematic later evidence. Fairly reliable trend data are available on both gun ownership and crime in England for the period 1871-1964. Significantly, the data do not correlate: Violent crime did not increase with increased gun ownership nor did it decline when gun ownership was lower.

Addressing later 20th Century trend data, an English analyst finds "'firearms homicide correlates closer with car ownership than with firearms ownership'" in England, Switzerland and the U.S.15 Commenting on the American evidence to this effect Kleck states:

The per capita accumulated stock of guns (the total of firearms manufactured or imported into the United States, less imports) has increased in recent decades, yet there has been no correspondingly consistent increase in either total or gun violence... About half of the time gun stock increases have been accompanied by violence decreases, and about half the time [they have been] accompanied by violence increases, just what one would expect if gun levels had no net impact on violence rates.16

Subsequent information as to the U.S. shows that over the 25-year period 1973-97 the number of handguns owned by Americans increased 163%, and the number of all firearms increased 103% -- yet homicide declined 27.7%. It continued to decline in 1998, 1999 and 2000 despite the American gunstock having increased by 2-3 million in each of those years.

Kleck also notes the "striking absence" from the demographic patterns of gun ownership "of any consistent indications of a link between gun ownership and criminal or violent behavior by owner": gun ownership is "higher among whites than among blacks, higher among middle-aged people than among young people, higher among married than among unmarried people, higher among richer people than poor" -- these all being "patterns that are the reverse of the way in which criminal behavior is distributed."17

Study of Afro-American homicide suggests two more points: The extreme American homicide rates after 1965 are largely attributable to homicide rates being several times higher among Afro-Americans than among whites. Yet Afro-Americans own guns far less frequently than whites.18

The foregoing facts cannot be reconciled with claims that guns cause homicides by law abiding people "who might have stayed law-abiding if they had not possessed firearms" -- or that reducing firearms possession among the law abiding would decrease murder. (See fn. 2.) Given that murders among Afro-Americans are generally gun murders, the only explanation is that in that community guns are much more highly concentrated among violent people than is the case among whites. This, in turn, suggests the overall number of guns in our society is unimportant -- for even when few law-abiding people in a community have guns, violent people still get them.

Consider also an exception to Afro-Americans' generally lower gun ownership: Rural Afro-Americans own guns at about the same rate as whites. Yet young urban Afro-Americans -- with far fewer guns per capita -- have a murder rate nine times higher than that of young rural Afro-Americans. Like demographics, geographic patterns of gun ownership relate inversely to crime: "areas in England, America and Switzerland with the highest rates of gun ownership are in fact those with the lowest rates of violence." This is true of Canada also.19

Repudiating his own prior support for gun control, criminologist Hans Toch observed, patterns of firearms ownership tend to be inversely correlated with violent crime rates, a curious fact if firearms stimulate aggression. It is hard to explain that where firearms are most dense, violent crime rates are lowest, and where guns are least dense violent crime rates are highest.20

HISTORICAL INTERNATIONAL COMPARISONS

But what about the well-known fact that nations with low gun ownership and highly restrictive gun laws have low murder rates while lax controls give the U.S. the highest rates of any modern industrialized nation? This "fact" is actually several unexamined assumptions, each being either unverifiable or verifiably false.

Anti-gun advocates endlessly compare the U.S to a few European nations on the assumption that those nations' low murder rates stem from severe gun controls. In fact those nations' rates were lower yet (and far below ours) before WWI when controls were minimal or nonexistent. Their controls were enacted to preclude political crime in the turbulent post-WWI era. Despite this, these nations far exceed the U.S. in political homicides -- a fact they conceal by just omitting such homicides from their murder statistics.

To determine whether severe gun controls reduce murder, the proper comparison is not to the high (apolitical)-homicide U.S., but to other European nations where firearms (especially handguns) are allowed and common. That comparison reveals that homicide rates in the latter (Austria - 1.0 per 100,000 population, Switzerland - 1.1) do not exceed those of the highly gun-restrictive surrounding nations (France and Germany, both 1.1; Hungary 3.5; Italy 1.7; Slovenia 2.4; Yugoslavia 2.0).

Thus it is not gun scarcity that keeps European homicide rates low. Indeed, analysis of data on 36 nations show "no significant (at the 5% level) association between gun ownership levels and the total homicide rate...."21

Concomitantly, the U.S. should be compared not to Western Europe but to other high-murder-rate nations such as Russia. There, severe and severely-enforced gun bans applied to a largely unarmed population succeeded in virtually eliminating gun murders -- so other weapons were substituted. In only four of the 35 years 1965-99 was Russia's murder rate (barely) lower than ours, while in another 10 the rates were almost identical. But in 21 years the Russian rate was higher, and in seven the Russian rate was more than twice the U.S. Today it is almost four times higher.22

These comparisons imply that the decisive factors in national homicide rates are socio-economic and cultural, not availability of some particular form of weaponry. Two decades ago, after evaluating the literature on gun control for the National Institute of Justice three University of Massachusetts sociologists concluded:

It is commonly hypothesized that much criminal violence, especially homicide, occurs simply because the means of lethal violence (firearms) are readily at hand, and, thus, that much homicide would not occur were firearms generally less available. There is no persuasive evidence that supports this view.23

The intervening years have only fortified that conclusion.

Note from the Author: At the editor's request, footnotes in the above article have been kept to an absolute minimum. Further references will be found in Armed, and in Prof. Kates's contributions to Gregg Carter (editor), Guns In American Life: An Encyclopedia (ABC-CLIO, 2003; forthcoming Dec., 2002).


1 Don B. Kates, Henry E. Schaffer, et al.,"Guns and Public Health: Epidemic of Violence or Pandemic of Propaganda", 62 TENN. L. REV. 513-596 (1995) at 525-26.
2 Quoting from, respectively: National Coalition to Ban Handguns, undated, unpaginated pamphlet entitled"A Shooting Gallery Called America" (emphasis in original) and the Violence Policy Center's blurb describing itself,"About the Violence Policy Center."
3 Except as expressly noted, all references for this section will be found in Kates-Schaeffer et al, at 579 ff. and Armed, pp. 21-22.
4 Delbert S. Elliott,"Life Threatening Violence is Primarily a Crime Problem: A Focus on Prevention," Colorado Law Review, 1081-1098 (1998), p. 1093.
5 Dean G. Rojek,"The Homicide and Drug Connection", p. 135 in Paul H. Blackman, et al,. The Varieties of Homicide and Its Research (Quantico, VA, F.B.I. Academy, 2000).
6 Roger Lane, Murder In America: A History (Ohio State U. Press 1997), p. 21.
7 Wade C. Myers & Kerrilyn Scott,"Psychotic and Conduct Disorder Symptoms in Juvenile Murderers," Homicide Studies, v. 2 at 161-63 (1998).
8 Langford, et al.,"Criminal and Restraining Order Histories of Intimate Partner-Related Homicide Offenders in Massachusetts, 1991-95" in Blackman, 2000 supra.
9 These and similar observations appear in every article in the November, 1998 ("Femicide") issue of Homicide Studies, and in studies cited therein.
10 Malcolm, 2002, pp. 19-20, Lane, 1997, p. 20.
11 Lane supra, pp. 48 and 59-60.
12 Id. 107, 344.
13 Lane, supra, pp. 155, 181, 307, Eric Monkkonen, Murder In New York City (Berkeley, U.C., 2001), Lee Kennett & James LaVerne Anderson, The Gun In America: The Origins of a National Dilemma (Greenwood, 1975), pp. 93, 98-100, 117.
14 Randolph Roth,"Guns, Gun Culture, and Homicide," WM & M. Q., v. 59, pp. 222-240, at 234-40.
15 Malcolm, supra, p. 204, emphasis in original.
16 Gary Kleck, Targeting Guns: Firearms and their Control (1997), p. 18, emphasis added.
17 Id., p. 71).
18 For all discussion of Afro-American homicide herein see Kates, Schaffer, supra, pp. 574-75.
19 Malcolm, supra p. 204, Philip C. Stenning,"Gun Control - A Critique of Current Policy," Policy Options, v. 15, p. 15 (1994).
20 Hans Toch & Alan Lizotte,"Research and Policy: The Case of Gun Control", at p. 232 in Psychology and Social Policy, edited by Peter Sutfeld and Philip Tetlock (NY Hemisphere, 1992).
21 Kleck, supra, p. 254.
22 William A. Pridemore,"Using Newly Available Homicide Data to Debunk Two Myths About Violence in an International Context: A Research Note." Homicide Studies v. 5, pp. 267-275 (2001).
23 Abstract, p. 2, to Executive Summary of Wright, Rossi & Daly, Weapons, Crime and Violence In America: A Literature Review and Research Agenda Washington, D.C., Gov't. Print. Off.: 1981), emphasis added.



comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:


Gary Johnston - 2/24/2011

Can you say non sequitur? We have more knife murders than a lot of these other countries. So why is Denmark's four times Switzerland's or Norway's? Why does Jamaica and Brazil have Japan like laws an both have higher rates.


Gary Johnston - 2/24/2011

The Bradys are not liberals, Sarah and James are life long Republicans from the Reagan administration. The guy in charge now is a former Republican mayor of Ft Wayne. Joe McNamara, former San Jose police chief< now works for the right wing Hoover Institution. Bloomburg is just another plutocrat that believes unions are evil and the only definition of success is the amount of money you acquire or inherit. In fact, I have yet to find a liberal or progressive heading one of these groups. Liberals make up much of the rank and file (such as it is).


ynneb bfm boschmans - 5/15/2007

after introducing a Gun Control in the UK and Australia, crime (including homicide) and suicide increased immediately.

All the official figures are available in the study on the relationship between gun ownership and crime, published on http://www.gunfacts.be


Chris Grant - 3/12/2007

Really, though, isn't poverty and education more of a factor in crime than any sort of weapon laws or restrictions? Guns can be had on the black market regardless of restrictions, so isn't really more of a lack of opportunity?


clarence swinney - 3/2/2003

(USA=Many Guns=many crimes)(other nations=few guns=few crimes).


Donald Kates - 8/13/2002

Note from the Editor: Mr. Kates asked for permission to reply to Mr. Lambert's comments. We have agreed to give him the opportunity. Because his reply is long, we have published it as a separate article. It is located at the following address. To access it, simply click on the link below:

http://hnn.us/articles/906.html


Tim Lambert - 8/11/2002

Mr Kates does readers of the History News Network a grave disservice with his article. He pretends to provide them a criminologist's perspective on the guns-crime question, but only quotes from pro-gun criminologists. He carefully selects the evidence he presents to prevent his readers from learning about facts that contradict Mr Kates' thesis. The analysis that he does present is simplistic where it is not flatly wrong.

Kates claims to present extant social science evidence but nowhere does he address or even the mention the work of Zimring and Hawkins [1] or Cook and Ludwig [2]. Now, it is possible that these criminologists are wrong, but it is misleading to pretend, as Kates does, that their work does not even exist.

Now look at the words from the criminologist that he does quote, Gary Kleck: "when aggressors have guns, they are ... (3) more likely to kill the victim, given an injury. Further, when victims have guns, it is less likely aggressors will attack or injure them" [3]. Kates fails to mention that Kleck was forced to correct his claims in the passage quoted above. The first claim: "Kleck and McElrath misstated their results bearing on this issue, due to a misinterpretation of one of their statistics. ... the presence of a handgun is associated with
an absolute increase in the probability of the victim's death of 1.4 percentage points. Since the overall death rate in all incidents was 0.36%, this represents a relative increase in the probability of death of about 3.9." [4, p242] The second claim: "while defensive gun use is generally safe, it does not appear to be as uniquely safe among self-protection methods as data from earlier NCVS data suggested." [5, p291]

It is puzzling as to why Kates appears to be unaware of these
corrections by Kleck. One appears in a chapter that Kates cited in his article. The other appears in a book that Kates co-authored with Kleck.

Next we turn to Kates' creative use of statistics: "over the 25-year period 1973-97 the number of handguns owned by Americans increased 163%, and the number of all firearms increased 103% -- yet homicide declined 27.7%" Notice that Kates is comparing the total number of guns with the homicide *rate*, the total number of homicides divided by the population. Needless to say, this biases the comparison in the direction Kates prefers. In any case, criminologists, whther they be the pro-gun ones that Kates quotes, or the pro-control ones that Kates does not mention seem to agree that the total number of guns sold is a poor measure of gun availability. It does not seem reasonable that guns are twice as available to someone with two guns as someone with
one gun. Consequently criminologists usually consider whether or not a person or household has a gun as the important independant variable.

Lastly, we look at the international comparisons. Kates does not tell us what the few European nations that are endlessly compared with the US but presumably England is one of them. England has a much lower homicide rate the the US, and a much much lower gun homicide rate. Criminologists on both sides seem to agree that this fact, by itself, doesn't mean very much since there are many other difference between the US and England other than gun availability. He argues that
1. These nations far exceed the US in political homicides
2. They don't even count political homicides in their statistics (in the first reference he cites he claims that
England and Scotland do not count political homicides).
3. Russia has a higher homicide rate than the US.

I note that
1. The US far exceed England in political homicides. Has Kates been in a cave for the past year?
2. Scotland, at least, does include political homicides in its
statistics. If you look at the homicide figures for Scotland [6]
it is obvious that the deaths at Lockerbie caused by a terrorist bomb were included.
3. Russia is more different from the US than England is.


[1] Zimring and Hawkins "Crime is not the problem" (1999).
[2] Cook and Ludwig "Gun Violence: The real costs" (2000).
[3] Gary Kleck, Address to the National
Academy of Sciences/National Research Council Panel on the
Understanding and Prevention of Violence (1990).
[4] Gary Kleck, "Targeting Guns: Firearms and their Control" (1997).
[5] Gary Kleck and Don B. Kates "Armed: New Perspectives on Gun
Control" (2001).
[6] World Health Organization Statistical Yearbook (1985-1995)


Editor - 7/26/2002

In response to a reader's comment, Mr. Kates has provided HNN with a lengthy statement: As indicated in my article DO GUNS CAUSE CRIME?, murder rates seem to have diminished across Europe from the period before guns existed. The decline was particularly marked in Europe from the 18th Century on.

The major exception to this has been rates of homicide by blacks which are six to eight times higher than white murder rates in both the US and England. Reader Mark Clark (presumably not the general, who is long deceased) queries the reasons.

It should be noted that some studies have suggested that rates of black homicide and other violence are no greater than those of similarly situated (i.e., economically deprived) whites. See, Brandon S. Centerwall, "Race, Socioeconomic Status and Domestic Homicide, Atlanta, 1971-72," 74 AM. J. PUB. HLTH. 813, 815 (1984) (reporting results of research and discussing prior studies). See also Darnell F. Hawkins, "Inequality, Culture, and Interpersonal Violence," 12 HEALTH AFFAIRS 80 (1993). For a discussion assailing racist theories of the prevalence of violence see Jerome A. Neapolitan, "Cross-National Variation in Homicide; Is Race A Factor?" 36 CRIMINOLOGY 139 (1998).

The only time I have treated this matter at any length was in a never-finished article written a few years ago. Though large parts of it have been published elsewhere, the portion on black homicide has not, nor have I revised it here. In fact it is not my own research, but rather relies almost exclusively on the seminal work of historian Roger Lane (see below).

He emphasizes industrialization as a violence-reductive factor in the Western World: the Industrial Revolution required and produced disciplined, orderly work forces. Current American murder rates are driven by the very disproportionate murder rates among some African-Americans. Thus John DiIulio argues that "America does not have a crime problem; inner city America has a crime problem." John J. DiIulio, "The Question of Black Crime," 117 THE PUBLIC INTEREST 3 (1994) also quoting 1969 National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence to the same effect; id. at 5.

We have added emphasis to DiIulio's words to focus attention on the geographic limitation which refutes any notion that race per se is the factor underlying the African-American homicide rate. It is not African-American homicide per se that makes the American homicide rate so enormous, but rather "inner-city" homicide grossly distorts both American and African-American homicide rates. As we shall see, urban blacks actually have far less gun ownership than either whites in general or rural blacks. Yet the gun murder rate among young black urban males is 9.3 times higher than among young black rural males. Lois A. Fingerhut, et al., "Firearm and Non-Firearm Homicide Among Persons 15 Through 19 Years of Age: Differences by Level of Urbanization, U.S. 1979-89," 267 Journal of the American Medical Ass'n. 3048, 3049, Table 1 (1992). Obviously, neither guns nor race can account for the fact of homicide being so much less among the well-armed rural African-American population than among their relatively poorly armed urban compeers. The obvious lesson is that, whatever their race, the small fraction of (highly aberrant) people who want to murder find guns regardless of how prevalent guns may be in their general community.

Historically, disproprotionate black homicide rates may be attributed to the virtual exclusion of African-Americans from major sectors of employment during the post-Civil War period which continued through the mid-20th Century. Lane's seminal research has documented the role of racism in both promoting murder by African-Americans and excluding them from the violence-reductive effects of industrial employment:

In the post-Civil War period though black murder rates were high, they were far lower than today ... and lower than those of their immigrant Irish competitors while Italian murder rates [when Italians began immigrating] soared well above those of blacks.

[A]fter the [Civil W]ar both unions and employers, all over the country, combined to drive [blacks out of high paying trades]... [F]actory work, all across the country was considered too good for black workers. [Black homicide is] another social-psychological [deprivation that] resulted from black exclusion from the regimenting effects of industrial and bureaucratic work. These effects are shown in the relatively rapid decline in homicide rates among Irish and Italian immigrants, two other ethnic groups with high levels of preindustrial violence, as their integration into the industrial work force demanded unprecedented levels of sober, disciplined, orderly behavior, which carried over into their private lives.

[Later when they were] no longer shut out of the urban-industrial revolution, blacks were instead let in too late. During the 1940s and 1950s blacks in effect were piped aboard a sinking ship, welcomed into the urban industrial age just as that age was dying, with industrial cities losing population and jobs.

[In late 19th Century Philadelphia] blacks consistently outscored their competitors on written tests of all kinds... Even the white press generally agreed that black civil servants (and, a historian would add, blacks as a group) were overqualified for the [low level jobs to which they were confined] in this era, as a result of a general refusal to promote them to positions where they might have authority of any kind over white workers. [Blacks were acutely aware of the need for education and struggled heroically to attain it. B]lack literacy in the city soared from roughly 20 percent to 80 percent over the final thirty years of the [19th C]entury ... [Philadelphia blacks included doctors, lawyers and other professionals -- graduates of Harvard, Yale and the University of Pennsylvania. But] that was no guarantee that they could make a living. As whites would not hire them and blacks could not afford them, licensed black physicians were found working as bellhops.... In the early 20th Century not one of Philadelphia' black attorneys could make a living through his law practice alone.

The lesson blacks learned from this was that for them education had no economic value. (NOTE: the quotes just given are taken from Lane's MURDER IN AMERICA, pp. 181-85, 298-300 and 327, as well as Roger Lane, "Black Philadelphia, Then and Now" 108 THE PUBLIC INTEREST 35, 42 (Fall, Summer, 1992) and Roger Lane, ROOTS OF VIOLENCE IN BLACK PHILADELPHIA: 1860-1900 (Cambridge, Harvard U. Press, 1986).


Don B. Kates - 7/26/2002

If the NRA is claiming that Hitler originated German gun con-
fiscation they are missing a bet. It actually originated w/ the post-WWI Weimar government as an effort to control right and left-wing extremists; in other words, it was the product of fine, liberal people like Sarah Brady who had no desire to promote tyranny, but sought only to reduce violence. Hitler seized upon the laws to disarm his opponents, and expanded them by prohibiting Jewish gun ownership. See generally, Prof. Halbrook's, "Nazi Firearms Law and the Disarmament of the German Jews," 17 AZ. J. INT'L. & COMP LAW (2000) which is also available at his website stephenhalbrook.com


Don B. Kates - 7/26/2002

If the NRA is claiming that Hitler originated German gun con-
fiscation they are missing a bet. It actually originated w/ the post-WWI Weimar government as an effort to control right and left-wing extremists; in other words, it was the product of fine, liberal people like Sarah Brady who had no desire to promote tyranny, but sought only to reduce violence. Hitler seized upon the laws to disarm his opponents, and expanded them by prohibiting Jewish gun ownership. See generally, Prof. Halbrook's, "Nazi Firearms Law and the Disarmament of the German Jews," 17 AZ. J. INT'L. & COMP LAW (2000) which is also available at his website stephenhalbrook.com


Mark Clark - 7/25/2002

Mr. Kates notes that violence rates among blacks are higher in the USA than for whites. I would be curious to know if that difference is due to socio-economic status (blacks tend to be poorer than whites) or age distribution (blacks tend to be younger than whites), or if blacks are more likely to murder even if the samples are corrected for these population differences.

Are there other factors at work, perhaps cultural ones? Lynching, for example, was more common in the South than in the North prior to the Civil War - are blacks a product of a more violent social background? Or are there cultural factors - what are murder rates like in Africa, esp. those parts of Africa that served as the source for American slaves?


Patrick Gorman - 7/25/2002

Excellent article, "Do Guns Cause Crime". Thank you.


Gary Ostrower - 7/25/2002

This isn't a comment but a question. NRA officials have claimed that the "first" order of Hitler's 1933 government was to confiscate privately-owned firearms in Germany, a comment that, if true, reflects Kates's claim that gun controls in post-World War I Eruope were instituted to reduce political crime.

But is it true that Hitler's government prohibited weapons ownership in Germany? Can anyone verify the NRA claim?

Subscribe to our mailing list