Opinion

Remember The 2007 Harvard Study Showing More Guns Led To Less Crime?

Gun control is back in the news after the recent Oregon college shooting with President Obama considering executive action on gun background checks. Predictably the President is pushing what he describes as “common sense” laws, although without specifically saying what such laws would be. The premise of the left is that there are too many guns out there and more guns means more mass shootings.

At first blush this makes sense. More guns, more shootings. More cars, more accidents. More skiers, more broken bones. But is this really so?

What about self-defense? Even the New York Times is begrudgingly acknowledging this concept and justification for gun ownership.

A Harvard study from 2007 recently resurfaced. Published by the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, the study’s conclusion is contradictory to conventional wisdom about gun violence and understandably received little media attention. Citing data from the Centers of Disease Control, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the UN International Study on Firearms Regulation, the study concluded, “The more guns a nation has, the less criminal activity.”

Stop the presses! Wouldn’t this make front page news? Or at least a rebuttal to the many liberals pushing for stricter gun control measures? Particularly since it was a Harvard study, a university revered by the left. Instead the story was buried.

What did the study find?

“While American gun ownership is quite high, many other developed nations (e.g., Norway, Finland, Germany, France, Denmark) have high rates of gun ownership. These countries, however, have murder rates as low or lower than many developed nations in which gun ownership is much rarer. For example, Luxembourg, where handguns are totally banned and ownership of any kind of gun is minimal, had a murder rate nine times higher than Germany in 2002.”

How about this?

“Where firearms are most dense violent crime rates are lowest, and where guns are least dense violent crime rates are highest.”

This would explain why shootings occur in “gun free zone” schools and movie theaters rather than in police stations or gun clubs. Or in cities like Chicago, a murder mecca despite some of the most stringent gun controls in the nation.

President Obama claims, “Other countries, in response to one mass shooting, have been able to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings.” He cites Great Britain and Australia as examples.

So how is that working in England? According to the Harvard study, it’s not.

“Armed crime, never a problem in England, has now become one. Handguns are banned but the Kingdom has millions of illegal firearms. Criminals have no trouble finding them and exhibit a new willingness to use them.”

“In the late 1990s, England moved from stringent controls to a complete ban of all handguns and many types of long guns. Hundreds of thousands of guns were confiscated from those owners lawabiding enough to turn them in to authorities. Without suggesting this caused violence, the ban’s ineffectiveness was such that by the year 2000 violent crime had so increased that England and Wales had Europe’s highest violent crime rate, far surpassing even the United States.”

The study also notes that there are 40 US states allowing its citizens to carry concealed handguns and this has actually reduced murder and violent crime.

“Adoption of state laws permitting millions of qualified citizens to carry guns has not resulted in more murder or violent crime in these states. Rather, adoption of these statutes has been followed by very significant reductions in murder and violence in these states.”

Another myth is that, “murders mostly involve ordinary people who kill because they have access to a firearm when they get angry.” Instead the Harvard study found, “almost all murderers are extremely aberrant individuals with life histories of violence, psychopathology, substance abuse, and other dangerous behaviors.” Looking at the histories of James Holmes or Adam Lanza makes this abundantly clear.

The study further notes:

“There is no reason for laws prohibiting gun possession by ordinary, lawabiding responsible adults because such people virtually never murder. If one accepts that such adults are far more likely to be victims of violent crime than to commit it, disarming them becomes not just unproductive but counterproductive.”

Guns are also linked to suicide – more guns, more suicides. The study also addressed this:

“There is simply no relationship evident between the extent of suicide and the extent of gun ownership. People do not commit suicide because they have guns available. In the absence of firearms, people who are inclined to commit suicide kill themselves some other way.”

The study concludes with a warning to lawmakers eager to add to the long list if existing gun laws:

“The burden of proof rests on the proponents of the more guns equal more death and fewer guns equal less death mantra, especially since they argue public policy ought to be based on that mantra. To bear that burden would at the very least require showing that a large number of nations with more guns have more death and that nations that have imposed stringent gun controls have achieved substantial reductions in criminal violence (or suicide). But those correlations are not observed when a large number of nations are compared across the world.”

Why did this research paper not receive more attention? Peer reviewed and published by the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, this study demonstrates what works and what does not work with gun control. The media, rather than parroting the talking points of the left, should be discussing the finding of this study. Lawmakers need to understand the consequences of their knee-jerk legislation which may endanger the lives of those unable to protect themselves. And this works guides us, as a nation, where to direct our limited public health resources. Unfortunately, it’s been buried for the past eight years and the media has no interesting in resurrecting the story.

Brian C Joondeph, MD, MPS, a Denver based retina surgeon and writer. Follow him on Facebook  and Twitter.