Gun Control Lessons from Prohibition; Restriction Won't Prevent Killers

Article excerpt

Byline: Jake Huneycutt, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

In 1919, Prohibition was marketed as a solution to crime, alcoholism and violence against women. Without demon rum, workers would become more productive and violent tendencies in society would disappear. Proponents believed it was the beginning of a golden age and that the alcohol ban would radically transform society for the good.

Prohibition did radically transform American society, only not in the way the proponents envisioned. Rather, the result was more alcoholism, the beginning of organized crime and a wave of violence like none ever seen before in America. Instead of a golden era, Prohibition unleashed one of the most violent and crime-ridden ages in American history.

Every decade or so, Americans become entranced by the same siren song that produced Prohibition. The song says, If you ban it, it will go away. It croons, If we merely strip away our liberties, we'll all be safer. History has shown us that this siren song is dangerous.

Gun control proponents like to point out that strict gun control measures in nations like Australia and the United Kingdom have led to fewer mass shootings. This may be true, but what proponents often ignore is how gun control tends to lead to increases in other violent crimes. As is often the case, politicians try to legislate to prevent one problem, but end up creating half-a-dozen new ones in the process.

Since Australia enacted its landmark gun control legislation in 1996, gun-related homicides have declined, but almost every other sort of violent crime has increased. While the homicide rate fell from 1.9 per 100,000 persons to 1.3 from 1996 to 2007, assaults increased from 623 per 100,000 persons to 840 during that same time - a 35 percent jump. The sexual assault rate likewise increased from 78 per 100,000 persons to 94 - a 21 percent jump. In other words, for every 0.6 person out of 100,000 who did not fall victim to a homicide, 217 suffered from a violent assault, and another 16 suffered from sexual assault. While it's impossible to know how much of this shift was the result of the 1996 laws, it is not exactly an overwhelming endorsement of Australia's gun control regime.

The situation is similar in the United Kingdom. A recent Reason.com article points out that home burglaries are four times more likely to occur when the occupants are home in the United Kingdom compared to the United States, suggesting that British burglars may simply have less to fear than their American counterparts. …