For the longest time, handguns were banned in the city our legislators convene to uphold the constitution: Washington D.C.D.C.’s City Council passed the Firearms Control Regulations Act in 1975, which required all firearms to be registered with police, but more importantly, banned the possession of handguns (even if they’re kept in the home) unless they were registered prior to 1976. So in effect, handguns were banned in D.C. from 1976 onward.
Of course, the strict gun control laws didn’t make the city any safer. In fact, the case was just the opposite:
The ban was eventually struck down in a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling in June of 2008.
And what’s happened since then? According to the Daily Caller:Eliminating the District of Columbia’s comprehensive handgun ban had almost no effect on homicides committed with or without such firearms in the nation’s capital, according to an analysis by The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group.
Nearly 80 percent of all D.C. homicide victims from 2000 through 2007 were killed with a gun, city and federal data compiled by The Washington Post and analyzed by TheDCNF found. That figure dropped to 74 percent after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in District of Columbia v. Heller that Washington’s handgun ban was unconstitutional in 2008.
But, as the above graph illustrates, the post-Heller decrease in both the annual number of gun-related homicides and all homicides extended an overall trend that began in 2002 and continued through 2012.
The post-Heller decrease was observed despite a 2013 incident in which one man killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard. Attacker Aaron Alexis launched his attack with a shotgun.
“I expect murders to fall,” Crime Prevention Research Center President John Lott told TheDCNF. “How they fall is a different question. The people who generally obeyed the ban were law-abiding citizens and not the criminals.”He noted that drug gangs – which are frequently the shooters in D.C. homicides – obtained handguns regardless of whether the ban was in place.
The Daily Caller only analyzed homicide data, finding that those crimes decreased significantly in D.C. after 2008, with 45 fewer in 2009. Gun homicides alone dropped nearly 22 percent – almost identical to the decline in all homicides.
Also, D.C.’s homicide decline began in 2002, but has increased significantly the last two years with an accompanying increase in gun homicides. The overall total of 162 homicides in 2015 is still short of the 262 mark set in 2002, the highest for the 16-year period TheDCNF analyzed.
There was no accompanying spike in the percentage of murders committed with guns either.
Gun laws in D.C. still are extremely strict of course, but nothing is quite as strict as a ban. If they had expanded access to concealed carry following the strike-down of the handgun ban, the evidence from other states and cities that have done the same suggests that homicides would’ve declined even further.
[Note: This post was written by Matt Palumbo. Follow him on Twitter @MattPalumbo12]