New York City is one of the most gun-controlled cities in the world. The law that initially laid down the gun control laws is the Sullivan Act, a law passed in 1911–a date that may feel a bit ironic to die-hard gun aficionados–and basically makes guns virtually impossible for the average New Yorker to own and use for self-defense.
Honestly, I don’t see how the law has survived this long. Regardless, though, it’s the law in the Big Apple.
And yet, its longevity also helps to provide us a glimpse into just how little gun control actually accomplishes its goal of reducing crime.
For those of you who are a bit on the young side, you may not remember what New York was like in the 70s and 80s. Back then, crime was rampant in New York City.
Up until 1959, New York City had a few hundred murders per year. That’s a lot, but for a city the size of New York, it’s not overly. You’re always going to have impressive raw numbers of any crime in a city that size, after all, so it wasn’t anything alarming.
In 1959, though, the number of murders was just under 400. That year also started a trend of increased murders that eventually peaked at 2,245 murders in 1990. At that point, a corner was turned and the number of murders went down until last year tallied just 311 murders, on par with the pre-1959 numbers but with a much larger population.
(It should be noted that one arguable exception might be the year 2001. Officially, there were 649 murders that year, but those numbers exclude the 9/11 attack which would have made that the highest number of murders to date, but would have no bearing on any policy New York City has, had, or will have.)
For almost 30 years, violent crime grew and grew until, one day, it didn’t anymore. Then it started a downward spiral.
Many people have looked at a number of potential causes for this. They should. It’s important. We need to understand what triggered this change.
What didn’t trigger it, though, was gun control.
During that entire time, there was little to no change in the gun control laws applied to residents of the city. The gun control law remained basically unchanged, even as violence skyrocketed. It remained unchanged as violence plummeted as well.
In other words, gun control was a non-factor in New York City’s shift away from its violent history. They already had as much gun control as the city could enforce–gun control which did absolutely nothing to stop the city from becoming one of the most dangerous and violent cities in the country at the time–and so they didn’t really pass anything new.
Because of their already super-strict gun laws, they couldn’t try and take the easy way out like so many other cities are trying to do. They can’t blame the guns and restrict people’s rights in order to avoid the hard work of finding real solutions. It wasn’t an option for them.
In the process, though, despite what they may have intended to do, they managed to prove not only that gun control doesn’t work, but that violence can be reduced without passing new gun control measures. The city proved that there are other steps you can take to reduce crime, other things you can try without restricting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.
They didn’t mean to, but everything about the Big Apple’s history with violent crime proves that gun control isn’t the answer.
It’s just time for other cities to figure out what that answer is.