There's Nothing New Under the Gun

About a week ago, The New York Times' Randy Cohen got his Swift on and proposed to test the "more guns, less crime" theory. He wants to give every woman a gun, and see what happens. The outcome would, Cohen believes, settle forever the debate about gun prevalence and its influence on crime:

If nothing else, my plan would compel both factions, pro- and anti-gun, to reconsider their positions. If its adoption strews the streets with bullet-riddled bodies, then the pro-gun forces will have to abandon the idea that increased gun ownership decreases crime. If my plan actually does reduce gun violence, then gun-control partisans (including me) will have to reexamine their own assumptions.

Sounds oddly familiar. Back in the fall of 2001, Penn Jillette had the same idea in the Cato Institute's Regulation magazine: 

Every woman could do whatever she wants with her "Female Anti-Violence Device." She could leave it home if she wants, or if she cares about pleasing me (and who doesn't?), she could get one of those garter holsters. The only things she couldn't do is sell or give it to a man.

Of course, Jillette probably didn't have to explain to his readers in a follow-up that he was sorta-kinda joking.

Peruse (and be amazed by the size of) Reason's gun coverage archive here.

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  • ||

    If my plan actually does reduce gun violence, then gun-control partisans (including me) will have to reexamine their own assumptions.

    More likely, they'd conclude that men cannot be entrusted with guns.

  • ||

    If my plan actually does reduce gun violence, then gun-control partisans (including me) will have to reexamine their own assumptions.

    He's already left himself an out. Reducing crime that doesn't involve guns won't count...so if a woman shoots a guy armed with a knife who was trying to rape her, that will actually count as an *increase* in gun violence, and argue against the gun rights crowd. Clever.

    And unless he really believes the streets will be filled with bullet ridden corpses if his plan were adopted, he should be reexamining his beliefs now, rather than later.

  • ejay||

    For Pete's sake, we have years of results from the concealed carry states already, what more does anyone need? I remember the predictions that every fender bender would lead to murder. Never happened. Crime continues its downward spiral most places, and the last hotbeds of gun crime are in the no-carry metropolises.

    The test has been completed, guns won. All Cohen is doing is rewinding back to before 1990 or so and acting as if the intervening decades of increased concealed carry never happened. It's all BS, the correct acronym to substitute whenever you see NYT.

  • Anonymous||

    the streets will be filled with bullet ridden corpses



    Stock and flow. If that happens, it could be a one-time adjustment wherein criminals learn that the populace is armed. If it continues to happen, then either criminals aren't learning or we're in all-out war. Either way, I don't see an up-side to less weapons.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    http://www.gunsandknivestakelives.com/

    And one would think all the crazy ideas come from California...

  • ||

    I think Reason has covered pretty extensively how big of an idiot Randy Cohen is. I don't think anything he writes has to be mentioned again. I'm not sure if his advice in the Ethicist column is still as idiotic, but I think he has spewed enough idiocy in that column to last a lifetime. This is rather dated, but apparently this stupicity has been going on for over ten years:
    http://www.reason.com/news/show/31198.html

  • ||

    There is no need to do this since it has ALREADY been done in 46 states! Anyone without a criminal record MUST be issued a carry permit. The result? Less crime after the fact. Case CLOSED ! LOL

  • John||

    This proposal, at least, would have been a far better use of stimulus money than anything else we've seen.

  • Jacob T. Levy||

    Related in Reason: my old piece on Cohen that successfully annoyed him.

  • Jacob T. Levy||

    Whoops-- Bobar got there first.

  • ||

    What's the "herd immunity" threshold for violent crime and gun ownership? Put another way, the self defense and deterrence effects granted by gun ownership "vaccinate" a population against the "disease" of violent crime.

    How many people need to own guns before it becomes irrational for 99.995% of people to continue commit violent crimes?

    What's a threshold of gun ownership that wouldn't eradicate violent crime, but push it to below current levels ("just make things better")?

    Is 50% (hypothetically "all women") enough? Or does it need to be 95% of the population?

    I'd like to see someone run the numbers on this-- then we'd know just how many people we'd have to arm.

    The flip side to this, is that a "dose" of guns too low to "vaccinate" the population, but distributed equitably may well arm more criminals, but not enough citizens to deter them, causing a rise in violent crime.

    Anyone want to crunch the numbers on this?

  • Rhywun||

    the last hotbeds of gun crime are in the no-carry metropolises



    "Of the U.S.'s 10 largest cities, New York ranked last with 2,680 crimes committed per 100,000 residents. Dallas is the most dangerous, with 8,496 crimes per 100,000 residents."
    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000103&sid=aHWGwSJjpbOU&refer=us

    Granted, it's from a couple of years ago, but it tells me there's more to crime than gun control or lack thereof. I'm on your side, but you need to find a better argument.

  • ||

    Well if we go by crimes per unit land area, we wind up with 18.26 crimes per 100 square km in NYC, versus 11.13 crimes per 100 square km in Dallas. It's not obvious to me that per capita measurements make more sense.

  • Elemenope||


    How many people need to own guns before it becomes irrational for 99.995% of people to continue commit violent crimes?

    What's a threshold of gun ownership that wouldn't eradicate violent crime, but push it to below current levels ("just make things better")?


    These two are fascinating questions. I imagine it would depend on the subjective determination of risk/reward from the criminal's point-of-view, and how much that subjective assessment would change (and how fast) with an objective increase in the number of armed potential victims.

    Is 50% (hypothetically "all women") enough? Or does it need to be 95% of the population?

    Well, the "all women" thing is a problem precisely because women can be readily identified; the change in the number of guns would only affect those crimes that happen specifically or preferentially to women (like stranger rape). In other cases, criminals would simply switch to preferentially prey on males, since the prior probability of one of them being armed does not change under the all-women-are-armed scenario.

  • Rhywun||

    Except in Dallas, you're probably traveling much further distances in your daily life than the average New Yorker. So yeah, it's pretty obvious to me that per capita is the sensible dimension to measure.

  • Elemenope||

    Well if we go by crimes per unit land area, we wind up with 18.26 crimes per 100 square km in NYC, versus 11.13 crimes per 100 square km in Dallas. It's not obvious to me that per capita measurements make more sense.

    It's an interesting notion. However, I'd say that since all crimes are crimes ultimately against people, the probability of any given person being a victim of a crime is dependent on the per capita rate, and not the per area rate. The per area rate would matter if a crime had an "area effect", which some do but most do not.

  • ||

    It would be informative if somebody could amass statistics where the self-defense cases were subtracted from the totals, instead of just lumped together with all homicides. One suspects that, with an increase in the number of armed citizens, homicide quality goes up even if the quantity remains the same.

  • ||

    A far better test is to give every woman a gun AFTER they've been trained in its use. Even that is insufficient, because we don't have a culture based on near universal gun ownership. I would prefer that every woman have a gun after being steeped in the societal norms that would arise due to near universal gun ownership.

  • ||

    WHAT??? A cover of Time without an Obama on it???

  • robc||

    we don't have a culture based on near universal gun ownership

    The hell we dont. It doesnt cover ALL the US, but in many parts of the country (a majority by land mass), that culture does exist.

  • ||

    Jacob:

    Sorry. Probably shoulda caught that one.

  • Spoonman||

    Houston's and Dallas's crime numbers don't count. Katrina still has had a HUGE effect here.

  • Spoonman||

    To elaborate: There are apartment complexes in Houston that are stayed away from because they're known to house mainly "'trina people". There were some good folks who came from New Orleans, and they're working and doing just fine, but there are still a lot of dregs here and in Dallas.

  • Tomcat1066||

    The estimates are that guns are used in a self defence manner 2.5 million times per year. These are mostly in situations where a shot is never fired, and IIRC it's more times than guns are used in many violent crimes each year.

    No, the presence of guns alone will not deter crime, but it's a big, big step.

  • ||

    What's the "herd immunity" threshold for violent crime and gun ownership? Put another way, the self defense and deterrence effects granted by gun ownership "vaccinate" a population against the "disease" of violent crime.

    Very interesting question. You also need to define the herd as the generally law-abiding populace.

    As it is, the vast majority of violent crimes happen in a small, dysfunctional "underclass." Including them in the "herd" would distort your results.

  • JB||

    Liberals are fucking retards. I look forward to those clumps of cells getting aborted.

    Whether aborted by gun or other device, I don't really care.

  • monkey\'s on juice||

    Ok, I'll sign on to Cohen's idiocy.

    Only women can carry guns. But then only men should be allowed to drive.

  • ||

    I remember a C-Span show some years ago, Booknotes I think it was called then, about a book with this same title: More guns, less crime. The author was interviewed. In it the author had compiled statistics on "concealed-carry" county by county across the country. (There are over 6400 countys in the US) Within those countys where the carrying of hand guns was legal, crime was much lower than countys that outlawed hand gun carrying. More interesting, when a county changed from "illegal" to "legal", crime went down. Unfortunately, it went up in neighboring "illegal" counties. Also, not at all surprisingly, those "illegal" countys cried foul.
    What-the-hell, may all the little anti-gun Nazis rot in hell.

  • LarryA||

    Been there, done that.

    In 1966 the police in Orlando, Florida, responded to a rape epidemic by embarking on a highly publicized program to train 2,500 women in firearm use. The next year rape fell by 88 percent in Orlando (the only major city to experience a decrease that year); burglary fell by 25 percent. Not one of the 2,500 women actually ended up firing her weapon; the deterrent effect of the publicity sufficed. Five years later Orlando's rape rate was still 13 percent below the pre-program level, whereas the surrounding standard metropolitan area had suffered a 308 percent increase.
    During a 1974 police strike in Albuquerque armed citizens patrolled their neighborhoods and shop owners publicly armed themselves; felonies dropped significantly.
    In March 1982 Kennesaw, Georgia, enacted a law requiring householders to keep a gun at home; house burglaries fell from 65 per year to 26, and to 11 the following year.
    Similar publicized training programs for gun-toting merchants sharply reduced robberies in stores in Highland Park, Michigan, and in New Orleans; a grocers organization's gun clinics produced the same result in Detroit.

    From a paper first published in 1988.

  • ||

    This shows one of my least favorite tactics in modern discourse (lots of people use it, but the modern Left is hopelessly in love with it):

    If you're proven wrong, move the goalposts.

    The decrease in crime in places with liberalized conceal/carry laws is clear, as is the increase in places which restrict gun ownership. Cohen is trying to pretend, QUITE unsuccessfully, that his position hasn't already been thoroughly curb-stomped (you might've prevented that if you had a gun, buddy).

    I've said it before and I'll say it again: I refuse to take seriously any gun-control advocate who isn't willing to place a sign on his/her front lawn which says "This House Is Gun-Free".

    Oh, and Mr. Flanigan? Kindly refrain from mentioning Randy Cohen and Swift in the same sentence in the future; I just ate breakfast.

  • ||

    I agree, But my variety is different. I think we should have compulsory open gun carrying and training. Almost like the wild wild west! Crime levels would drop drastically, because criminals would be surrounded by countless waves of gun toting civilians. Those citizens who have committed felonies would be restricted from this. Sure, some perfectly normal people might get depressed or angry and at some point go nuts and start a rampage. But if all your targets are carrying guns, chances are you won't get very far. Plus, people might be inclined to be more careful with their words and actions in general.

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