If Stricter Gun Control Works, What Happened to Baltimore?

On March 6 in Baltimore, students marched toward City Hall asking for gun control. (Karl Catarata)

On February 14, a gunman opened fire on students and teachers at a Florida high school, killing 17 people and wounding another 14.

The news of that tragic event shocked the world and led the survivors of the shooting and their supporters to demand change from state lawmakers and even the White House.

In the wake of the Parkland shooting, gun-control activists have been calling for stricter gun laws, a complete ban of “assault style” firearm sales, and want the age requirement to buy firearms raised to 21.

After speaking one-on-one with Parkland survivors and their parents, President Trump stunned his own party by embracing gun control and urged a group of lawmakers at the White House to resurrect gun safety legislation.

As the country grapples with the latest mass shooting and its aftermath, citizens, activists, and lawmakers alike continue to push for even stricter gun control without realizing the effects it has had in cities like Baltimore.

Murder occurs so frequently in Baltimore that the number of homicides in the city is higher than the number in Philadelphia, even though Philadelphia is two and a half times the population.

Baltimore sees more murders than New York City and Chicago, despite an “assault weapons” ban, a “high capacity” magazine ban, and special fingerprinting and reporting requirements on handgun sales.

In 2017, Baltimore set a new per-capita homicide record for roughly 56 killings per 100,000 people that some attribute to the opioid epidemic and an influx of illegal guns.

The violence in Baltimore has been so rampant that a fourth facility was built with $43.6 million in taxpayer money in 2010 to hold the dead before autopsies could be performed.

In 2016, it cost the city $344,000 to perform autopsies on homicide victims. It cost another $3.3 million to bury them. For the bodies that weren’t claimed by family, they were given to medical science and then cremated. The cost of cremation is borne by the state—and the benefits for education and research likely outweigh the costs.

Moreover, Baltimore was recently named the most dangerous city in America in 2017, a fact that was brushed aside by Mayor Catherine Pugh at a recent press conference.

“Because we’re going to have so many visitors coming to Baltimore I think there’s some news I should share with you all,” Pugh said. “I know you’ve read the USA Today story talking about violence in Baltimore, but let me just say that was 2017—we’re in 2018.”

Pugh went on to say that homicides were down more than 30 percent so far this year, as were shootings in which the victim survived and other kinds of violence—but we’re not even through the first quarter of 2018 yet.

According to data analyzed by the Baltimore Sun Times, the overwhelming majority of guns used in Baltimore’s homicides in 2017 were illegally possessed.

Community members, law enforcement, and criminologists alike can’t come to a consensus about the main cause behind the increase in violence. However, they do agree that gang violence, the “Freddie Gray effect,” and the opioid epidemic play a part.

Regardless, criminals are still getting their hands on illegal guns. So, why are gun-control advocates pushing for national gun-control measures like Maryland's laws?

When tragedies happen, advocates rely on emotionally charged rhetoric to call on politicians to “do something” rather than do the right thing. In this case, the right thing would be the repeal of strict gun laws that strip citizens of their right to bare arms and protect themselves.

In his book, More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws, John Lott Jr. demonstrates that states with the largest increases in gun ownership also have the largest drops in violent crimes.

“Concealed handgun laws reduce violent crime for two reasons. First, they reduce the number of attempted crimes because criminals are uncertain which potential victims can defend themselves. Second, victims who have guns are in a much better position to defend themselves,” Lott said in an interview.

If Americans truly want to “do something” about protecting their most vulnerable from violence, then the Baltimore example should be kept in mind along with the famous words of Benjamin Franklin:

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

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Chloe Anagnos

Chloe Anagnos, a writer and digital marketer, has been an AIER contributor since 2017. Her work has been the subject of articles in FOX News, USA Today, CNN Money, and WIRED. She has been a writer, commentator, and panelist for media outlets around the country on subjects like political marketing, campaigning, and social media. Follow @ChloeAnagnos.