THE COLORADO Supreme Court put some noses out of joint when it ruled unanimously this month that the University of Colorado’s campus gun ban violated a 2003 state law that entitles residents with permits to carry concealed weapons.
One of those noses belonged to Abraham Nowels, a University of Colorado student who wrote to the Denver Post: “We’re in the middle of midterms right now, and I can’t think of anything I’d rather be focusing on than which of my fellow over-stressed, binge-drinking peers is carrying a concealed weapon into class with me.’’ The Post agreed, pleading in an editorial for “legislators with enough gumption’’ to change the state’s concealed-carry law and “give colleges the power they need to keep students safe.’’
To those with an emotional bias against guns, it goes without saying that more guns in private hands invariably mean more crime and violence. If the number of people carrying firearms on campus rises, then of course that campus is less safe. What could be more obvious?
But it isn’t obvious at all.
While the University of Colorado spent much of the past decade resisting the state’s concealed-carry law, Colorado State University complied with it. If the gun controllers are right, Colorado State should have seen a surge in crime, while its gun-banning sister institution should have been an Eden of security and lawfulness. That’s not what happened. As Clayton E. Cramer and David Burnett write in a new monograph for the Cato Institute, “crime at the University of Colorado has risen 35 percent since 2004, while crime at Colorado State University has dropped 60 percent in the same time frame.’’
Something similar happened after the US Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller decision striking down a gun ban in Washington, DC. The city’s mayor predicted in dismay that “more handguns in the District of Columbia will only lead to more handgun violence,’’ yet crime in the nation’s capital plunged. Murder nose-dived to its lowest rate in half a century, falling from 186 in 2008 to 144 in 2009 to 132 in 2010 to 108 in 2011.
To be sure, correlation doesn’t prove causation. But the experience of Colorado State and DC should come as no surprise. By now there’s so much evidence that higher rates of gun ownership lead to lower rates of crime that it isn’t hard to fathom why fewer and fewer Americans want to ban handguns. According to Gallup, just 26 percent of the public now thinks the private possession of handguns should be illegal — that’s down from 60 percent half a century ago. Roughly 1 of every 4 Americans reports keeping a gun to protect themselves or their homes. Having a gun makes many people — for good reason — feel safer.
Shares of Sturm Ruger & Co. ( RGR) were up as high as 14 percent Thursday afternoon after CEO Michael Fifer announced the company was temporarily suspending its acceptance of new orders in an effort to meet a dramatic surge in demand for its products. “Despite the company’s continuing successful efforts to increase production rates, the incoming order rate exceeds our capacity to rapidly fulfill these orders,” Fifer said in the statement late Wednesday.
Ruger received more than a million order requests in the first quarter of 2012.
Shares of rival firearm maker Smith & Wesson ( SWHC) were similarly up about 13 percent Thursday — a sign, gun proponents say, that Americans are not swayed by the recent protests.
“I think it’s evidence that no one believes that the ‘stand your ground’ law is flawed or had a role in precipitating this tragedy,” said Michael Hammond, legislative counsel for Gun Owners of America. “Government by lynch mob hasn’t worked particularly well in this country when it’s been employed, and I don’t think it’s going to work now.”
Martin’s killing, which took place in Florida, has sparked controversy over the state’s so-called “ stand your ground” law allowing individuals to use lethal force, rather than flee, in threatening situations.