“We must do anything that might help”

It’s pretty clear to me that gun control has little or no effect on violent crime. (See my Visualizing the statistics page if you haven’t already.)

But people are beating the drum for gun control. If something even has a chance of working, we have to do it, they say. Even if it infringes people’s constitutional rights. Even if it costs money.

“We have to do something, even if it might save just one life.”

Even if it’s unlikely to help at all. What happened in Britain when they banned handguns? Armed robbery went up. What changed when the previous assault weapons ban ended, and people started buying AR-15s like crazy? Nothing: the rates of homicide and violent crime weren’t affected.

OK, if we’re going to try ANYTHING that might help, I have a modest proposal here. It infringes people’s rights. It costs money. And it has a chance of reducing violent crime. It goes like this:

  1. Identify the urban neighborhoods with the most violent crime
  2. Set up police checkpoints throughout the neighborhood
  3. Allow no one to enter or exit a building, or to pass from street to street, without a thorough search of their person.

It might work! In fact, it is more likely to work than a gun ban. But we wouldn’t do this, because of the following reasons (which also correspond to the steps above):

  1. Picking on certain neighborhoods is profiling, and violates the 14th Amendment
  2. All those extra police cost way too much
  3. Searching everybody without cause violates the Fourth Amendment

Of course I’m not seriously proposing this; in fact it’s outrageous. (Unless you want to live in a police state.) And why bother, when it’s much easier just to ban some sort of ill-defined “assault weapons”? But that comes close to banning most legally owned guns, which is outrageous too.

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