Cory Booker's Bogus Claim That Gun Licensing Reduces Crime

Cory Booker's Bogus Claim That Gun Licensing Reduces Crime

AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker has been beating the drum on gun licensing for a while now. He wants to take New Jersey’s draconian gun control laws and apply them on a national level. Those he can get away with, anyway.

To advance his proposals, he’s making some claims that aren’t nearly as backed up as he’d like to believe.

Last night, at the first Democratic candidate debate for the 2020 campaign, Sen. Cory Booker (D–N.J.) proved my prophecy correct when he said, “If you need a license to drive a car, you should need a license to buy and own a firearm. And not everybody in this field agrees with that, but in states like Connecticut that did that, they saw 40 percent drops in gun violence and 15 percent drops in suicides.”

Booker is wrong (even if we kindly translate his looser “violence” into the study’s actual focus on homicides) and so is the study that gave him that 40 percent figure. The study, as I previously explained, “purports to show that a 1995 tightening in Connecticut’s gun permit laws led to a 40 percent reduction in gun homicides over the next decade,” resulting in “nearly 300 fewer gun homicides.”

Yes, Connecticut’s murder rate fell after the law passed, though the state’s gun murder rate had already fallen 29 percent in the two years before the law was enacted, matching trends nationwide. Indeed, murder rates have been falling even in those states without any sort of permit-to-purchase laws, as can be seen in this chart from page 19 of the study:

[Chart at original link]

The chart also shows that the study’s authors simply guessed about what Connecticut’s gun homicide rate would have been if the law had not passed. They did this by creating a “synthetic Connecticut” which is 72 percent neighboring Rhode Island. For reasons the authors do not speculate on, Rhode Island saw an unusual rise in gun homicides in the decade following Connecticut passing its permit law.

The authors lumped the two states together for analytical purposes based solely on the fact that the two states had similar gun homicide rates in the past. But what’s really interesting here, and what the study’s authors did not examine, is not that Connecticut’s rate fell (which was in keeping with national trends anyway), but that Rhode Island’s rate started to rise.

The study that makes the claim isn’t nearly the slam dunk Booker would like to claim, though, he doesn’t care. He’s trying to advance an agenda, nothing else. He’s going to cherrypick any study he can find that can be used to justify his policies. This one does precisely that.

Booker, however, seems to believe that if you have to have a license to drive a car, you should need a license to own a gun. The problem is that he’s unable to show me or anyone else where the Constitution guarantees the right to keep and bear cars, especially since he doesn’t even get the metaphor right.

You can own a car without a license. You can operate a car without one. What you can’t do is operate one on public roads. You’re showing you can drive a vehicle safely to operate one on government property.

On your property, you don’t need anyone’s permission to drive. Children are driving on their family farm all over this country right now, and they’re perfectly legal to do so.

So, yet again, Booker doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about. Hardly the most surprising statement of the day.