Sad New Trend: City Halls As Victim Zones

September 15, 2003
Cincinnati Enquirer

Starting today, Cincinnati residents who want to apply for building permits, pay water bills or visit their elected representatives at City Hall will be subject to search and passed through a metal detector.

City Manager Valerie Lemmie is instituting the restrictions at the request of Vice Mayor Alicia Reece, who said a July trip to New York - where a councilman was shot and killed at City Hall - awakened her to the need for tightened security.

"We can't be prepared for terrorists if we don't have simple security measures in place right here at our own City Hall," Reece said. "We're trying to send a message to people when they come to City Hall that we're trying to make it safe for you."

But as a recent op-ed by Dr. John Lott points out, rules like these would never have prevented New York City Councilman James E. Davis' murder - and many would actually make future similar crimes more likely.

Click here to read the entire story in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Published September 16, 2003, in The New York Post


By John R. Lott Jr.

THE shocking murder of City Councilman James E. Davis has stirred the council to consider at least 11 new gun-control laws; Mayor Bloomberg set new rules on guns at City Hall soon after the attack. Yet the vast majority of these rules would never have prevented Davis' murder - and many would actually make future similar crimes more likely.

City politicians don't realize who will be obeying their new laws - mainly law-abiding citizens, not criminals. Remember: Davis' killer, Othniel Askew, owned his handgun illegally, and brought it into City Hall illegally.

The mayor's solution is to ban off-duty and former cops from carrying guns in City Hall. But why trust officers on-duty, but not off?

Bloomberg was very troubled that Davis, the victim, was a retired police officer with a permit to carry a gun: "I don't know why people carry guns. Guns kill people."

To protect themselves, Mr. Mayor. Most people can't afford their own security detail.

No, James Davis was blindsided by the attack, and so couldn't use his gun to protect himself.

Yet criminals obviously have less to worry about if fewer people can act to defend themselves and others. And there is a clear drawback to relying only on uniformed officers: If would-be killers want to attack, they need only wait until the uniformed officer leaves the area, or take out the officer first.

Meanwhile, the proposed laws before the council deal with rifles and shotguns, not handguns. The bills would force rifle and shotgun owners in the city tobuy liability insurance, require dealers to obtain information on buyers of ammunition, limit the purchase of rifles or shotguns to a maximum of one every 90 days and ban sales of rifles or shotguns to anyone under 21.

What does the Davis tragedy have to do with the regulations of rifles and shotguns?

There is no evidence that such regulations have reduced violent crime. Even when rules like this are applied to handguns, not one academic study finds reductions in violent crime from age restrictions on purchasing guns or one-gun-a-month rules or limits on ammunition sales. It is even less obvious why these "controls" would reduce crime when applied to rifles and shotguns.

Then there's the proposal to make gunmakers liable for any harm caused by their guns. This makes as much sense as making automakers liable for medical costs and other harms from car accidents.

Worse, the law, if taken literally, would make gunmakers even more reluctant to sell guns to police. Police, after all, sometimes use guns improperly, presumably making gunmakers liable for any harm. Indeed, about two or three times a year, a criminal uses a police handgun to even kill police.

Kahr Arms, a company that sells guns to the NYPD, noted that only "one lawsuit would put us out of business."

With all the city's existing gun-control laws, where is the evidence that they have reduced crime? Take registration: The NYPD doesn't even collect information on how many murders are committed by people with a registered gun, as opposed to by a gun obtained illegally. Canada does keep such data: Only in 3 percent of handgun murders there was it even possible that the weapon might have been registered to the perp.

Mayor Bloomberg may wonder why people carry guns, and much of the City Council may agree. But Councilman Davis, a former cop, understood the risks and benefits: While not foolproof, guns certainly help the odds. That is why he carried a gun.

John Lott, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute is the author of "The Bias Against Guns."

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