Home DC Poltics Hoober: Long Ago Gun Control Really Was About Gun Deaths

Hoober: Long Ago Gun Control Really Was About Gun Deaths

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By Sam Hoober,  Alien Gear Holsters

Every time a new gun control bill is proposed, the same messaging about reducing the epidemic of gun deaths or gun violence is employed. And it’s always disingenuous.

Maybe the people proposing it really think so, but when has a gun control law even been adjacent to a real and actual problem relating to gun violence? Rarely, if ever.

Take the recent Biden executive orders and some of the bills that have been introduced in the House of Representatives.

He wants to make braced pistols NFA guns. House Democrats want to totally ban suppressors. Suppressors and braced AR or AK pistols just aren’t used in the commission of crimes more than a few times in any given year.

Handguns are used in crimes every day, often by people who aren’t legally allowed to possess them. Does anyone call for harsh mandatory minimum sentences for gun charges? No, not really, because that would hold people accountable, and that’s just not allowed.

Clearly, doing anything to actually reduce the number of annual firearm homicides or crimes committed with guns is not the priority. What is? Mollifying and/or catering to people who want everyone disarmed.

Furthermore, we can also safely say that the presence of more gun laws doesn’t really influence the murder rate.

If we look at the most recent Uniform Crime Report, we see an overall homicide and non-negligent manslaughter rate of 5.0 per 100,000 people for 2019, the last year for which complete data is available.

Interesting trivia fact:

The homicide rate was 5.1 per 100,000 in 1964, and a heck of a lot more gun laws are on the books now compared to then. If anything, more laws have made things worse; the 2019 UCR reports that 73.7 percent of homicides are committed with firearms, compared to 55.8 percent in 1964.

And it was a lot easier to buy a gun back then; you didn’t even need to get a background check. Heck, the guns weren’t even that different; there were “high capacity” 9mm pistols and AR-15 rifles on the market in 1964.

Sure, a Browning Hi Power is a lot different than a Glock, and a Colt Sporter (semi-auto M16 for civilian sale) isn’t quite the M-Forgery that’s common today, but still.

So clearly, murder rates and usage of firearms in the commission of crimes happens irrespective of the gun laws.

The Gun Control Act of 1968, and its update in 1986 were both enacted during a peak period of gun deaths; homicide and violent crime increased in the mid-60s and didn’t significantly recede until the 1990s.

The Clinton Assault Weapon Ban barely did anything. At all. The best that was ever said about it is that it maybe would have worked a little bit if it had stayed in place. More gun control is almost certainly not going to do anything.

Was there ever a gun law that actually had something to do with gun deaths and actually worked? Or, failing that, at least coincided with some positive results?

Actually, there was. In fact, it can be safely said – and in a data-supported manner – that at least one gun control law did coincide or correlate with some reductions in homicides and indeed gun deaths…

…but also remember that correlation isn’t causation and that if anything, we can argue the nation’s gun control laws could conceivably be rolled back (significantly) with little negative effect.

And what, pray tell, was that particular gun control law?

The first one! The National Firearms Act of 1934.

Again, this isn’t to argue for more gun control; if anything, it’s to say that the NFA of 1934 was the high water mark for effective gun control laws in the United States. Everything afterward hasn’t achieved anything, so we might as well get rid of it.

So, the NFA was enacted with a single purpose in mind: to give law enforcement the edge. The National Firearms Act made it prohibitively expensive for civilians to purchase or own fully-automatic weapons, short-barreled rifles or shotguns and suppressors.

In 1934, a $200 tax stamp was the equivalent of $4320 today, adjusted for inflation. It’s also the case that machine guns of the day were incredibly expensive; a Colt Monitor (civilian market version of the BAR) cost $300 in 1931 and a Thompson SMG cost $200.

People today like to daydream about ordering a Tommy gun through the mail (which you could do before 1934) but the reality is that while it was legal to do so, you couldn’t. Again, $200 for a Thompson was the equivalent of more than $4,000.

Who could afford one? The very wealthy, like Al Capone! – but few police departments. The FBI could afford a few Colt Monitors, but Clyde Barrow got his by robbing National Guard armories.

At the time, the nation’s police were just plain outgunned, which is why the NFA was passed: to make it too expensive for the nation’s criminals to keep buying the guns they were using on the nation’s law enforcement officers.

At face value, it appears to have worked. According to the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Fund, police deaths by year decreased after 1934. Police officers started dying in greater numbers beginning in 1921, reaching a high of 312 officers killed in the line of duty in 1930, according to their stats.

As far as overall homicide rates, the above-cited report on Homicide in the United States 1950 to 1964 also publishes the homicide rates for 1900 to the present; the homicide rate not only falls, but continues to do so from the mid 1930s through the end of the 50s.

Not only did homicide rates fall, they kept falling.

So as it happens, only the NFA of 1934 has ever been associated with an actual improvement in any statistical measures related to what the law in question was intended to do.

But, this comes with some BIG OL’ DISCLAIMERS.

First, the decline in homicide rates coincided with the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. As we know today, most gun violence by volume is associated with crime in the inner cities and much of it connected with the illegal drug trade.

When societies create black markets, they create a lot of violent criminals with them.

Second, the post-war period was the beginning of the one of the biggest economic booms ever recorded in any society in world history, especially with the Bretton Woods agreement.

When the Bretton Woods system was strained (LBJ and Nixon had to devalue the dollar so they could pay for the Vietnam War, among other things) to the point of taking the nation off the gold standard, stagflation began to set in and crime began to rise.

As we know, one of the biggest correlations with violent crime is poverty. Where there is less poorness, there is less violence. Therefore, periods of economic prosperity – meaning prosperity for everyone, not just the upper 1 percent –  tend to mean less violent crime.

So did the NFA really have any effect? It’s hard to say for sure, but it is the only gun control law to date that has meaningfully coincided with a reduction in violent crimes and/or homicides.

What we can safely say is that modern gun control efforts aren’t really about reducing gun deaths. Today’s gun control push is about disarming the populace, so let us recognize it for what it is.

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Sam Hoober is a Contributing Editor to AlienGearHolsters.com, a subsidiary of Hayden, ID, based Tedder Industries, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. Click here to visit aliengearholsters.com.