No, New York's Gun Laws Don't Save Lives

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The state of New York doesn’t like guns. We know they don’t like guns because they’ve made it as plain as they possibly could. After all, the state has been attacking the Second Amendment for years now.


And, frankly, they don’t have a lot to show for it.

Of course, that doesn’t stop some people from trying to claim otherwise.

One of us is a police leader who headed police agencies in three cities, including twice in New York City, successfully reducing violent crime in each venue. The other is a lifelong public policy advocate seeking ways to reduce violence, including having helped lead the successful fights to pass the Brady Bill, ban on assault weapons and ban on large magazines. We have both worked on many different violent crime issues, and we have worked together in different cities in the United States and in Latin America.

The one common element we see in every place we go where violence is high is how the easy availability of firearms drives violence. This is irrefutable.

Actually, John Lott refuted that in his work, “More Guns, Less Crime.”

So yeah, it can be refuted, thus isn’t not irrefutable. Just because you don’t want to see that refutation doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Moving on…

Our own city, New York, is currently in the grip of an alarming rise in shootings and murders which threatens to further destabilize an already shaken city. The NYPD last year seized a record number of guns and this year is on track to do the same. Coincidentally, or perhaps not so coincidentally, 2020 saw a record number of gun sales nationwide, and 2021 is on track to see the same. We are awash in a sea of firearms and New York must rely on its own legal structures to try to stem this flow of guns.

Recent action by the U.S. Supreme Court accepting for review a case challenging New York’s gun licensing system threatens to make an already perilous situation even more dangerous.


The problem these two are running into is the fact that New York City’s gun control laws have remained fairly constant through the years–incredibly strict, mind you, but constant–and yet crime has ebbed and flowed. The city has been among the most dangerous cities in the world and among the safest large cities in the nation. There’s never no violence, of course, but without any substantive changes in gun control laws, the city has seen a bit of everything.

That kind of suggests that the problem may not be the number of guns, but from other factors.

Currently, New York City is seeing a huge surge in gun violence, yet there have been no real efforts to liberalize gun laws in the city or the state. Nothing has changed with regard to the availability of firearms.

If you took what these writers claim at face value–that there’s a correlation to firearm availability and violent crime–then things should have remained constant. Yet they haven’t.

No one disputes that violent crime is a problem. What we dispute is that infringing on people’s civil rights is the only or even the best intervention strategy.


Hell, even if it was, it’s still an abridgement of people’s liberties. Since it’s not effective, there’s really no point in pursuing it in the first place.

Not that you’ll convince some people of that.

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