Where Gun Ownership Is Mandatory

In the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting, Reuters checks in with Kennesaw, Georgia, which in 1982 required all heads of households to own a gun and ammo:

Kennesaw's law was a response to Morton Grove, Illinois, which had passed a gun ban earlier that year as a step to reduce crime.

But it also was an affirmation of what gun advocates say is a blanket U.S. constitutional right, under the Second Amendment, for citizens to keep and bear arms. Gun opponents challenge that right and say the language in the Constitution is open to interpretation.

The Kennesaw law has endured as the town's population has swelled to about 30,000 from 5,000 in 1982.

"When the law was passed in 1982 there was a substantial drop in crime ... and we have maintained a really low crime rate since then," said police Lt. Craig Graydon. "We are sure it is one of the lowest (crime) towns in the metro area.

Exceptions are made for felons, conscientious objectors, and people who can't afford a gun. Nobody, says Graydon, has been prosecuted for failing to pack heat. I don't doubt that Kennesaw has seen  a crime drop over the past 25 years (violent crime rates are way down from the '80s, or even the '70s, when the feds first started collecting comprehensive data). And I don't doubt that widespread gun ownership acts as a deterrent to criminals. But specifics are always nice.

Here's a bit of irony: Due to the population growth, the gun ownership rate is now lower than when the law first passed.

When the town's gun law was passed, about 70 percent of households likely owned a gun , Graydon said. But Atlanta commuters have since swelled the town's population and gun ownership now is about 50 percent.

More here.

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  • Edward||

    "And I don't doubt that widespread gun ownership acts as a deterrent to criminals."

    Of course you don't. The whole edifice of your ideology would be in danger of collapsing if you did. Stick to your guns ( as it were.)

  • ||

    "The whole edifice of your ideology would be in danger of collapsing if you did."

    I disagree. That the second amendment guarantees the RTKBA says nothing about deterring criminals. It's just a nice side effect. And a hell of a good reason to use that right.

  • ||

    Edward,

    Let's see, VT was a "gun free zone". That sure seems to have been a good idea.

  • ||

    Wayne, you keep forgetting, when someone commits a crime with a gun, the best thing to do is to take the guns away from all the people who didn't do it.

    DUH!

  • Tim Lambert||

    There was no fall in crime in Kennesaw after the ordinance was passed. Look at the graph.

  • MattXIV||

    If nothing else, it certainly gives lie to the argument that widespread gun ownership would obligately result in a dramatic increase in gun crime.

  • Dave W.||

    How is the accidental shooting rate doing there?

    The Second Amendment does say "well regulated" and this town seems to be better regulated, so maybe this is a poster child for the "well regulated" requirement.

  • shecky||

    IOW, gun ownership doesn't indicate much other than gun ownership.

  • ||

    "If nothing else, it certainly gives lie to the argument that widespread gun ownership would obligately result in a dramatic increase in gun crime."
    There is no evidence to suggest that the law actually increased the rate of gun ownership. As was stated, gun ownership has actually declined since the passage of the law from 70% to 50% and the population has increased 6 fold. All else equal, we should expect crime rates to increase as the town transitions from a rural backwater to a suburb.

  • ||

    Tim, am I reading your graph right? It seems to end in 1986.

  • ||

    There was no fall in crime in Kennesaw after the ordinance was passed. Look at the graph.

    I did. Looks to me like there was a little more crime in '80 and '81 (before the law was passed) than in '82 and '83.

    Of course, the rather spotty Morton Grove graph also shows a slight decline.

    Make of it what you will.

  • Nick Gillespie||

    Tim Lambert:

    Thanks for the chart, which is interesting but only refers to burglaries in Kennesaw. Do you have data about the general crime rates?

  • Sherman||

    If gun ownership made violence decrease, Iraq would be the safest place in the world. I'd tell you gun nuts to shove your guns up your asses, but your heads are taking up all your ass space. Fucking nitwits.

  • ||

    Sherman-

    You ROCK!

    Your ability to use logic is just utterly awesome.

  • ||

    Wow Sherman,

    I guess we can solve Iraq now. All the Iraqi government has to do is pass some good gun control laws and the place will be safe. Jeez, I am glad you cleared that up. If only those suicidal lunatics in Iraq only had to deal with some tough gun laws, I am sure they would stop and become law abiding citizens.

  • MattXIV||

    Tim,

    The graphs you refere to are absolute numbers rather than per capita, but the population changes need to be taken into account to draw a valid conclusion, especially given the rapid growth of Kennesaw.

  • Sherman||

    mediageek

    And you're so witty.

  • Sherman||

    John

    Once everybody has a gun, it's too late. That's where we are now, idiot.

  • ||

    Having grown up in Kennesaw, I'm so proud we can make the national news for this. Especially since the Reuters article mentions the embarrassing KKK store still there.

    My family's never owned a gun though. But even though the city has a low crime rate, I'm curious if there's any disparity at all between Kennesaw and any other city that is affluent and fairly sprawling.

  • ||

    If gun ownership made violence decrease, Iraq would be the safest place in the world. I'd tell you gun nuts to shove your guns up your asses, but your heads are taking up all your ass space.

    I don't know what the per capita ownership of guns is for Iraqi citizens, but regardless, that's not a logical comparison at all. Iraq is a warzone which is currently importing terrorists whose sole motivation is killing people. That's not true of any US city.

  • Tim Lambert||

    The folks claiming about a fall in crime in Kennesaw were talkingabout burglaries. Other crimes were not frequent enough for any meaningful comparisons.

  • Sherman||

    Nal

    Oh, I forgot. America will always be a peaceful kingdom. What a relief. Thanks

  • Schutz||

    All that is not compulsory is forbidden, all that is not forbidden is compulsory.... It's less laws, not the right laws.

  • Sherman||

    Schutz

    FEWER laws. More education

  • ||

    Wow, now you are pedantic as well as uncivil.

  • MattXIV||

    "There is no evidence to suggest that the law actually increased the rate of gun ownership. As was stated, gun ownership has actually declined since the passage of the law from 70% to 50% and the population has increased 6 fold. All else equal, we should expect crime rates to increase as the town transitions from a rural backwater to a suburb."

    70%-50% is a pretty high ownership rate in and of itself. I doubt that the law had had much of an impact since it mostly codified a social norm of gun ownership in the town, but people weren't blowing each other away left and right either before or after despite a rather high rate of gun ownership as some tend to suggest would happen in the case of widespread gun ownership.

  • shecky||

    I don't know what the per capita ownership of guns is for Iraqi citizens, but regardless, that's not a logical comparison at all. Iraq is a warzone which is currently importing terrorists whose sole motivation is killing people. That's not true of any US city.

    Does it matter? If violence could be averted by simply adding more arms, Why would it not work in Iraq?

    It seems reasonable to me that places are violent, or peaceful, not because of the availability of guns, or lack therof, but because of the existing aggression of the people living in those places.

  • VM||

    Sherman.... um.

    huh?

  • ||

    The Second Amendment does say "well regulated" and this town seems to be better regulated, so maybe this is a poster child for the "well regulated" requirement.

    "Regulated" has an obsolete sense meaning "disciplined" when applied to troops. See here.

  • Jesse Walker||

    "Sherman" and "Edward" are the same person. He posts under other names, too -- earlier this week he was calling himself "Brady" and (showing his feminine side) "Gun Widow."

    He's one of the more obnoxious trolls hanging around this blog, with a special talent for combining a know-it-all tone with know-nothing content. It's best to ignore him.

  • ||

    It's best to ignore him.

    But, how will we drink?

  • ||

    Keep in mind that many, many factors feed into things like local crime statistics. Drawing any valid conclusions about the crime rate in Kennesaw, Baghdad, or any other place involves doing a lot of work to try and control for all the variables.

  • ||

    Jesse Walker, you seem to have a particular disdain for this troll.
    Cool. Everyone needs a nemesis.

  • lunchstealer||

    FEWER laws. More education

    Verbs in sentences. Less fragments.

    Cute little troll.

    JW, We're libertarians. We don't need rules to drink!

  • Highnumber\'s Nemisis||

    bobohohohohahahahahahaha.

    I still know what you did last summer....

    boobooboohoohoohahahahahahahahahaha!

    I can see you, but you cannot see me.

    [helmet causes mask to slip]
    d'oh.

    I could see you, but you can't see me!

    [fades away in evil goodness]

  • lunchstealer||

    The folks claiming about a fall in crime in Kennesaw were talkingabout burglaries. Other crimes were not frequent enough for any meaningful comparisons.

    Were they? I certainly haven't seen any specific mentions of burglaries in the article, but I'll take your word that people have made that point in the past. However, backing that up with more generalized crime numbers of some form (especially aggregate violent and property crime rates, per capita) would certainly go some way to clear up any confusion on the subject.

    It's possible that looking at the burglary rates alone gives a good picture, but to make that claim we'd need to at least look at the other stats, to rule them out.

  • ||

    "...a special talent for combining a know-it-all tone with know-nothing content. It's best to ignore him."

    Far be it for me to slip into gamerspeak, but, PWNED!

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "The Second Amendment does say "well regulated" and this town seems to be better regulated, so maybe this is a poster child for the "well regulated" requirement."

    Better brush up on your reading comprehension skills.

    "Well regulated" only applies to the milita (in the DEPENDENT clause) of the sentence. It places no constraints on "the people" whose right to keep and bear arms is ennumerated in the INDEPENDENT clause of the sentence.

  • Max||

    "If gun ownership made violence decrease, Iraq would be the safest place in the world. I'd tell you gun nuts to shove your guns up your asses, but your heads are taking up all your ass space. Fucking nitwits."

    I don't know if this was pointed out to Sherman, but Baghdad had gun control attempts by the US, but only Sunnits responded and now you can think about what the Shiites did when they heard that the Sunnis gave up their weapons....
    Yes, they started butchering the population...
    That's that...

  • ||

    Interesting idea, but I have to agree with Schultz. The RKBA is a right, not a requirement. I don't agree with the government telling me that I HAVE to keep a gun (note, nothing about learning how to use it) any more than I do with them telling me I CAN'T keep one.

  • ||

    Regarding burglaries and gun ownership, that is a very tenuous relationship as burglars usually rob empty houses. I understand that other, more violent crimes, were of a low occurrence to begin with making the case of Kennesaw a very poor one for gun ownership vs. crime.

    I suppose a comparison of a similar city in size, population demographics, growth rates, economic strata and location might be a good candidate for comparison but there is of course the culture (gun and other types) of the local population that cannot be measured. I am not saying that gun ownership (and confidence in carrying it) doesn't equate to less crime, particularly violent crime like rape and murder, just that Kennesaw, GA is not a great test bed for that theory.

  • ||

    "Sherman" and "Edward" are the same person. He posts under other names, too -- earlier this week he was calling himself "Brady" and (showing his feminine side) "Gun Widow."

    Wait...you guys can tell?

    I may have to re-evaluate my strategery.

  • ||

    Shape-Shifter,
    Yeah, psychic abilities are one of the hallmarks of Reason's writers. You have been warned.

  • ||

    Kwix,

    Burglars usually burglarize empty houses IN THE UNITED STATES. About one of eight homes burglarized in the U.S. are occupied. About half of homes burglarized in the U.K. are occupied and the burglary rate is roughly twice as high? Hmmmm.

  • Tim Lambert||

    Within the US, burglary rates are higher where gun ownership is higher This may be because guns are worth stealing. See The Effects of Gun Prevalence on Burglary: Deterrence vs Inducement:


    The proposition that widespread gun ownership serves as a deterrent to residential burglary is widely touted by advocates, but the evidence is weak, consisting of anecdotes, interviews with burglars, casual comparisons with other countries, and the like. A more systematic exploration requires data on local rates of gun ownership and of residential burglary, and such data have only recently become available. In this paper we exploit a new well-validated proxy for local gun-ownership prevalence -- the proportion of suicides that involve firearms -- together with newly available geo-coded data from the National Crime Victimization Survey, to produce the first systematic estimates of the net effects of gun prevalence on residential burglary patterns. The importance of such empirical work stems in part from the fact that theoretical considerations do not provide much guidance in predicting the net effects of widespread gun ownership. Guns in the home may pose a threat to burglars, but also serve as an inducement, since guns are particularly valuable loot. Other things equal, a gun-rich community provides more lucrative burglary opportunities than one where guns are more sparse. The new empirical results reported here provide no support for a net deterrent effect from widespread gun ownership. Rather, our analysis concludes that residential burglary rates tend to increase with community gun prevalence.

  • ||

    As relevant a thread to ask as any...

    What do you guys think that the Founders meant by the word "bear" with respect to the "keep and bear" provision of Second Amendment?

    CB

  • ||

    What do you guys think that the Founders meant by the word "bear" with respect to the "keep and bear" provision of Second Amendment?

    Apparently, there are some translation problems with the Second. This may help clear things up for you:

    "Bear"="Apply for a government permit to carry."

    And later in the same amendment:

    "Infringed"="Respected."

  • LarryA||

    The proposition that widespread gun ownership serves as a deterrent to residential burglary is widely touted by advocates, but the evidence is weak, consisting of anecdotes, interviews with burglars, casual comparisons with other countries, and the like.

    Not. The claim is that it deters burglary of an occupied residence, inducing burglars to be much more careful to strike where the occupants are not present.

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