MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Would More Gun Control Lead to More Crime? A Debate

Criminologist Gary Kleck debated Paul Helmke, the former president and CEO of the Brady Center, at the Soho Forum.

Does defensive gun use stop crime? Would more gun control save lives? Those were the topics of a public debate recently hosted by the Soho Forum, featuring Gary Kleck, a criminologist from Florida State University, and Paul Helmke, the former president and CEO of the Brady Center/Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence as well as the former mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Kleck argued that there are at least four times as many defensive gun uses by potential victims as there are by criminals, and that new gun controls would reduce the defensive uses far more than the criminal ones. Helmke questioned Kleck's take on the data.

The debate was held on September 13, 2018, at the SubCulture Theater in Manhattan's East Village. Soho Forum Director Gene Epstein moderated. Comedian Dave Smith, host of the podcast Part of the Problem, was the opening act.

The full resolution read: While laws that prohibit gun ownership would reduce crimes perpetrated by criminals, that benefit would be more than offset by the foregone opportunities for defensive gun use by victims of crime.

It was an Oxford-style debate in which the audience votes on the resolution at the beginning and end of the event, and the side that gains the most ground is victorious. Kleck, arguing the affirmative, prevailed by convincing about six percent of audience members to change their minds.

All Soho Forums are turned into Reason videos and podcasts. Go here for a full archive.

Kleck's research has focused on the impact of firearms and gun control on violence, deterrence, and crime control. He is the author of Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America, which won the 1993 Michael J. Hindelang Award of the American Society of Criminology. He also wrote Targeting Guns (1997) and, with Don B. Kates, Jr., The Great American Gun Debate (1997) and Armed (2001), and, with Brion Sever, Punishment and Crime (2017).

Helmke is a professor of practice at Indiana University's School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and he is the founding director of the Civic Leaders Living-Learning Center in Bloomington, IN.

Edited by Todd Krainin.

"Modum" by Kai Engle is licensed under a CC-BY creative commons license.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Like us on Facebook.

Follow us on Twitter.

Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Bubba Jones||

    Irrelevant.

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    Yes, irrelevant, but -- ugly reality -- we still need public support for the 2nd Amendment to keep our rights safe.

  • damikesc||

    Well, seems cities with the strictest gun laws tend to have an awful lot of murders.

  • 10mm||

    F off slaver.

    I simply will not disarm because you think it will change a criminal's behavior.

  • perlchpr||

    I can guarantee that more gun control will lead to more crime. For example, if they ban guns, I'll suddenly be a criminal. ergo facto ;)

  • loveconstitution1789||

    +1

  • Doug Huffman||

    +1

    'From my cold dead hands' works for me!

  • ZachChease||

    You and me both

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    More gun control emboldens treasonous democrats.

  • Old Mexican - Mostly Harmless||

    Does defensive gun use stop crime?


    Yes. It's implied in the word "defensive" and "use".

    I have another equally-excellent question: does washing yourself with water and soap stop bad smell? Does wiping your ass defensively with toilet paper help reduce soiled underwear?

  • Old Mexican - Mostly Harmless||

    Does driving carefully stop drivers from crashing?

    You're already answering your own question by using "carefully".

    The same way that you're answering your own question by using "defensive". If you're using your gun defensively, then it has to be to stop a crime. Otherwise it's not defensive use.

  • rchive||

    When cannons were invented, castle walls weren't strong enough to withstand their fire.

    Question: are castle walls not "defensive" because they can't stop cannonballs?

    Seems to me like something can be considered defensive if it is used in an attempt to defend something, regardless of whether it is successful in defending.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Force fields would be good.

  • Joe Clave||

    In hopes of watching the world burn, let's compare it to vaccination. If a population is known to be armed (vaccinated), criminals (diseases) will not operate among that population.

    An armed society = herd immunity

    Seems pretty defensive to me.

  • Cy||

    "Would More Gun Control Lead to More Crime?"

    Why is this even a debate any more?

    Can anyone definitively point to a US city where this hasn't been the case?

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Of course not, because -- by definition -- unconstitutional laws are criminal.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Six percent is better than nothing anywhere, and stupendous in NYC. Well done!

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Of course it would lead to more crime: Since many gun owners view gun control laws as constitutionally illegitimate, and refuse to obey them, it would transform large numbers of otherwise law abiding gun owners into criminals.

    That's actually intentional, since gun owners who are violating gun control laws have to be a bit careful about becoming high profile politically, or else they might, oh, I don't know, get set up with an under age prostitute or something.

  • sarcasmic||

    Will criminals be emboldened if self defense with guns is outlawed?

  • Ron||

    violent crimes in countries from England to Australia have only gone up since guns were confiscated. not much argument the proof is there but like socialism it just wasn't done by the right people yet

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    They also have problems controlling their violent Muslims.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    See Britain especially, but all of the EU has a much higher violent crime rate than the US. Mostly our criminals kill each other, and the EU locks them up, maybe; but we also kill a few criminals during the crime itself, which horrifies EU politicians.

    Seriously, the EU and especially the UK have a violent crime rate 3-4-5 times higher than the US. I don't how the definitions of violent crime differ, but considering that the UK's definition of murder only includes convictions and lowers their murder rate by half, it seems likely to me the same applies to their violent crime rate, making it even worse than ours.

  • Oli||

    That's a load of bullshit. The US has WAY higher violent crime rates than the EU. Source? Google. Any site, any result.

    But please, if you have something that supports your claim, I'm highly interested!

    And for the record: I don't think gun control in the US would do much. It's a cultural issue.

  • sarcasmic||

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Oli lying again.

  • Doug Huffman||

    G00gle serves lies for fee.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Yeah, and I'm finding it increasingly difficult to find original sources for information Democrats don't want you to have through Google searches. Like Ford's yearbook; All I could find through Google was people talking about it, I had to use DuckDuckGo to find the site that was actually responsible for it still being available to look at, cult of the 1st amendment.

    Google is technically better, but they're clearly letting politics dictate search results, more and more these days.

  • Exsqueezeyou||

    "Google." Really, Oli?

    What self-respecting cocksucker would reference "Google" as their 1st go to source on a Libertarian oriented site? You did read about their eagerness to shed principles to serve the Chi-coms, right?

    Ever hear of Duckduckgo? Oh, I get it. You knew g@#gle would come back with prejudiced results that would not support that. Well played, scumbag.

  • Naaman Brown||

    The UN advises diplomats that they are more likely to be at risk from violent crime in London than in New York City, because ..... Scarecrow Repair & Chippering sold them a load of bullshit.

  • Rockabilly||

    Just try to take away my gun commie rat.

    I dare you.

  • Uncle Jay||

    Why, no.
    Gun control always reduces crimes because violent criminals always obey laws, especially gun control laws.
    Just look at Chicago, Baltimore, St. Louis and Mexico.
    All those place have strict gun control measures on the books, and you don't see any gun violence in those places.
    That's because all the violent criminals there saw guns were illegal, threw there guns into a river and took up macrame.

  • The Last American Hero||

    To be fair, Mexico was a utopia until Obama/Holder started running guns to the cartels.

  • Naaman Brown||

    The spike in Mexican Drug War homicides escalated after newly elected President Calderon sent the Mexican Army against the cartels in Dec 2006.

    In meetings with US Pres GW Bush, Mex Pres Calderon saw the escalating death toll as a good thing because most deaths were cartel members or people associated with the drug trade. The body count was a measure of the success of the Mexican Drug War in 2007 and 2008.

    When Obama was elected US Pres Nov 2008 and sworn in Jan 2009, the escalating body count in the Mexican Drug War became a bad thing caused by legal guns in the US, and Mex Pres Calderon and US Pres Obama called for a War on Guns to reduce the body count in the War on Drugs: reinstatement of the 1994 Assault Weapon Ban and restrictions on border state gun stores.

    Project Gunrunner: Operation Wide Receiver which had been canceled by Bush Admin ATF assistant director Wm. Hoover in 2007 because "gunwalking" had proven to be a failed tactic was then jump started in Nov 2009 as Operation Fast and Furious, with even fewer controls. When gun stores reported straw buyers to ATF under OFF they were told by ATF to continue selling to identified cartel buyers.

  • PRussell||

    What's crazy is that it sounds like an unhinged conspiracy theory.

    Sadly, it is not.

  • Naaman Brown||

    CA, AR, NM. TX gun dealers told the DOJ Office of Inspector General (OIG) that they were instructed by ATF to report suspected straw buyers. Once they reported a straw buyer under Project Gunrunner, they did not see the straw buyer again except if they were called to testify at the straw buyer's trial. Under the gunwalking schemes, the dealers were ordered to continue selling to straws. Whistleblower ATF agents told the DOJ OIG that it was usual for straw buyers identified by gun dealers to be tagged for delay in the BG check system, for them to be followed by ATF and for ATF to "knock and talk" when the straw dropt guns off at addresses not on the ID used by the straw to make the buy. Under OFF no effort was allowed to stop the flow of legal guns to disappear into the illegal market foreign or domestic, despite protests by field agents. One buyer alone, Uriel Patino was allowed to buy over 700 guns after being outted by gun dealers. Dealers who objected to selling to Patino were told by Phoenix ATF to continue selling or face consequences for not cooperating with their regulatory agency..

    Then Obama Administration officials planned to use the fact gun dealers were selling to cartel buyers to promote more restrictive gun laws and asked for the names of the gun dealers to attack them.

  • Mark Nosuchinsky MaKovy||

    Attaching merit-less sentimental values to any commodity, a Firearm, in this instance, is not a good example of Judicious thought.

    Quite Clearly, More of a Problem with The Individual rather than said Commodity which is why the State of Our Country is in The Shape it's in.

    The Left can Shove Gun Control down someone else's god damn Throat.

  • Naaman Brown||

    1997 British Handgun Ban and British Murders and Robberies
    o Six years before the handgun ban (1991-1996):
    Total murders: 4,240, handgun murders: 176,
    Total robberies: 358,178, handgun robberies: 17,321.
    o Six years after the ban (1998-2003):
    Total murders: 5,103, handgun murders: 255,
    Total robberies: 576,218, handgun robberies: 17,047.

    UK averages per year,
    the six years before the 1997 UK handgun ban,
    706 homicides, 61 with gun of which 29 were with handgun;
    the six years after the ban,
    850 homicides, 71 with gun of which 42 were with handgun.

    Not an improvement in crime but the politicians were proud that the British Olympic shooting team were forced to commute to Belgium for legal target practice because they could not keep their handguns in England.

    After the handun ban shotguns were less likely to be used in homicide but use of illegal handguns increased. Sawed-off shotguns are seen as a substitute for handguns: the increased use of handguns and decline in use of shotguns can be seen as a measure of illegal availaiblity of handguns.

    The rise of the British criminal armourer class:
    "Home Office Research Study 298 Gun crime: the market in and use of illegal firearms" by Gavin Hales, Chris Lewis and Daniel Silverstone, Home Office Research Study 298, Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate December 2006.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Gun crimes are understated in a Great Nritain due to differences in how their information is counted. A criminal conviction is required for a gun crime to count there.

  • Naaman Brown||

    BUT. I was not comparing US v UK stats. I was comparing UK six years before the year of handgun ban with UK six years after the handgun ban, presuming the methods of reporting were reasonably consistent in those 13 years.

    The FBI UCR Crimes in America is based on police reports. The compilation is completed usually by the end of the following year (full report on 2017 by the end of 2018, for instance), but it is still crimes as reported by police, not crimes as adjudicated by coroners, prosecutors, grand juries, trial judges, trial juries, appellate courts.

    The British crime numbers are more likely to represent adjudications by their justice system, not raw police reports. The British even go back to previous years and remove from their murder statistics homicides that are adjudicated as justifiable in self-defense. The FBI UCR system does not do that.

    FBI does have a UCR crime report code 09C for suspected self-defense but few US jurisdictions allow a police report to adjudicate a homicide. Gary Kleck has estimated that the actual justifiable homicide numbers are four or five times the number listed in the FBI UCR as justifiable homicides.

  • Terc||

    There was a gun debate and no one mentioned that in the last 25 years the murder rate has fallen 50% while private gun ownership has skyrocketed. Gun control advocates don't even have correlation on their side.

  • Terc||

    The question I would have asked Paul Helmke is this: in the time since the "Brady Act" and the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) was implemented the murder rate in the US has fallen. Why aren't gun control groups celebrating their great victory? Why do they insist that we've done nothing to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands? He would have answered with a big pile of BS, but at least someone would've pointed out that it's never enough for these people. Right now they want your so-called "assault weapon." Next, your 30-30 deer rifle will be called a "sniper weapon" and that will have to go too.

  • vek||

    Dude, in Washington state the gun law that is on the next ballot defines ANY semi auto rifle as a "semi-automatic assault rifle."

    So literally any little plinker .22 is now an assault rifle... They will never quit. This is why they can't be given another inch.

  • Duelles||

    Lock up our guns and let the psychopaths go free.. sounds reasonable!

    let the psychopaths run free. Sounds reasonable to me.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online