Reducing Crime, But Not In The Nation’s Capital

As readers of C-Log know, I am interning this summer at The Heritage Foundation, located on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. I had the good fortune of finding an apartment right next to Heritage, close to a lot of the other fun stuff in town. But where I live is also fairly close to some not-so-great parts of town — and from that hangs a tale.

I moved in the very weekend that President Reagan died, and I figured that since I was living here I ought to buy the Sunday Washington Post. But I quickly discovered — and I should have guessed — that there is no Post machine in front of The Biggest Conservative Think Tank of Them All, only one for the conservative Washington Times. So on that Sunday night (yes, I’m a little slow) I walked off in search of the Post.

Klutz that I am, I ended up in “southeast,” a part of the city you don’t really want to be in alone, particularly at night. Which is why as soon as I noticed I was there I turned tail and went home Post-less and annoyed with myself.

But my little jaunt through DC wasn’t completely worthless. What really struck me that night was how much I like guns. Because when I found myself in southeast, I realized that unlike in my home state of Pennsylvania, had someone tried to mug me that night in DC I would have been basically helpless. Why? Because I couldn’t shoot back with my trusty Kahr P9.

Of course, shooting someone is not something to be taken lightly. But in the case of criminals, it’s really a good thing — and not because it’s sometimes what they deserve. No, guns’ potential for killing criminals is good because it reduces crime.

Unfortunately, that is a controversial notion — but it shouldn’t be. Research by Dr. John Lott, published in his books More Guns, Less Crime and The Bias Against Guns, has proven beyond any reasonable question that laws allowing citizens to carry concealed handguns for self-defense reduce crime. In fact, Lott even found that those most helped by concealed weapons laws are women, racial minorities, and urban residents — the very people liberals constantly profess to be helping.

Lott performed the most thorough study ever on the subject, using 18 years of FBI crime data from every US county. He attributes much of the crime-reducing effect of concealed weapons laws to deterrence: criminals aren’t dumb enough to forget that their next victim might just be packing some heat. His conclusions have withstood heavy scrutiny, and other academics have duplicated them.

Lott’s conclusions also make sense to me based on my life experiences: if not for a concealed firearm, I likely wouldn’t have a father. When I was a little kid, my dad’s job included lots of driving around Philadelphia in a bright orange public transportation truck. I don’t know the technical name for it, but “sitting duck” might’ve been appropriate, because he was attacked in it at least three times. Each time, he defended himself with his trusty Smith and Wesson revolver. Luckily, he never had to fire it — but the criminals only ran off because they knew he could have.

But if my dad worked in DC, defending himself like that would have been illegal. His concealed carry permit is no good here — neither is mine, which is why I was unarmed when I stumbled into southeast earlier this summer. And let me tell you: never have I so badly wanted to have a gun on me than I did then.

As a matter of fact, the Second Amendment itself is no good here in DC. There are no handguns allowed in the District of Columbia, period. But, of course, that doesn’t mean there’s no crime in DC, despite the intentions of the well-meaning liberals who outlawed handguns — quite the opposite, actually. DC is one of the most crime-ridden cities in America. Criminals know they aren’t going to get shot if they try to mug or rape or assault or murder someone.

It doesn’t have to be that way. That’s why I like guns — because they save innocent lives much more often than they are used to take them. And it sickens me to think that here, in the very heart of the place where freedom supposedly reigns, an integral part of the Constitution is being trampled.

People in Washington are not allowed to defend themselves — despite the Second Amendment’s guarantee of the right to keep and bear arms — and is it any wonder that crime is so rampant in such a place?

Surely we can do better in our nation’s capital.

Charles Mitchell is president of the Bucknell University Conservatives Club, executive editor of its magazine, The Counterweight, and the proud owner of over 15 firearms.