NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 10, 2007

Criminals like to use handguns to commit crimes.  So ultimately the question of all gun-control laws is whether it is the law-abiding citizens or criminals who are most likely to obey.  If law-abiding citizens are the ones who turn in their guns and not the criminals, crime rates can go up, not down, says John R. Lott, senior research scientist at the University of Maryland.


  • In the five years before the 1976 gun ban in Washington, D.C., the murder rate fell from 37 to 27 per 100,000.
  • In the five years after it went into effect, the murder rate rose back up to 35.
  • The murder rate fluctuated after 1976 but has only once fallen below what it was in 1976 (that happened years later, in 1985).


  • For violent crime, from 1977 to 2003, there were only two years when D.C.'s violent crime rate fell below the rate in 1976; these drops and subsequent increases were much larger than any changes in neighboring Maryland and Virginia.
  • For example, D.C.'s murder rate fell 3.5 to 3 times more than in the neighboring states during the five years before the ban and rose back 3.8 times more in the five years after it; D.C.'s murder rate also rose relative to that in other similarly sized cities.

Surely D.C. has had many problems that contribute to crime, but even cities with far better police departments have seen crime soar in the wake of handgun bans, says Lott.  If D.C.'s politicians want to keep arguing for a ban based on public safety, hard facts must eventually matter. If they can't see that gun-control laws have failed to deliver as promised, maybe the Supreme Court can point it out for them.

Source: John R. Lott, "D.C.'s flawed reasoning," Washington Times, September 7, 2007.


Browse more articles on Government Issues