Analysis

In 1982, One Georgia Town Required Everyone To Own A Gun. Here’s What Happened

   DailyWire.com
Silhouette of man's hand holding a pistol
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In the wake of recent tragedies, the tired refrain from the Left to ban gun ownership has reared its dogmatic head for the umpteenth time. It seems the legacy media and the Left can find no other solution to curb crime and violence. Instead, they can only stamp their feet and demand a massive redaction or outright abolishment of the Second Amendment with little to no regard for facts or objective reality.  

Lost in all the hysterics and sophistry is just how effective a deterrent legal gun ownership is against crime. Though often buried by the Left, countless studies and data point to this being decidedly true. In fact, here’s how an unusual city ordinance passed in a suburb outside of Atlanta, Georgia proved just that. 

The Kennesaw city ordinance 

While Kennesaw, Georgia has grown quite a bit with the addition of Kennesaw State University, in 1982 it was a relatively quiet suburb of Atlanta with a population of about 5,000. At the time, Kennesaw City Council decided to pass an ordinance requiring all heads of households to possess a firearm at home. It began as a somewhat symbolic effort to protest the outright ban on handgun ownership in Morton Grove, Illinois. This new ordinance, however, would lead to startling results in crime reduction. 

Professor Gary Kleck, a lauded criminologist and Professor Emeritus at Florida State University, detailed the outcome of the city ordinance in a 1988 study for the academic journal, Social Problems, that included an “89 percent decrease” in burglaries:  

“Finally, the deterrent effect of civilian gun ownership is supported by the experience of Kennesaw, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta with a 1980 population of 5,095…To demonstrate their disapproval of a ban on handgun ownership passed in Morton Grove, Illinois, the Kennesaw City council passed a city ordinance requiring heads of households to keep at least one firearm in their homes. In the seven months following passage of the ordinance (March 15, 1982 to October 31, 1982), there were only five reported residential burglaries, compared to 45 in the same period in the previous year, an 89 percent decrease…This drop was far in excess of the modest 10.4 percent decrease in the burglary rate experienced by Georgia as a whole from 1981 to 1982, the 6.8 percent decrease for South Atlantic states, the 9.6 percent decrease for the United States, and the 7.1 percent decrease for cities under 10,000 population…”

Of course, this is just one of the many examples Kleck provides in his innumerable studies on the subject of legal gun ownership as a highly effective deterrent against crime.

In the same study, Kleck noted that “subway robberies decreased by 43 percent” in New York City after an armed citizen “used a handgun to wound four robbers.” Kleck was quick to point out that there may have been some correlative value to that finding due to an additional increase in police presence. Still, such transparency and academic rigor only bolster his comprehensive research.  

Elsewhere in the study, Kleck details how, in 1967, the Orlando Police Department trained some 2,500 women in the use of firearms after a spike in sexual assaults. As a result, incidences of rape plummeted by 89 percent in Orlando, while “[t]he rape rate remained constant in the rest of Florida and in the United States.”

Not only did training a large number of women in the proper use of firearms act as a massive deterrent against sexual assault, Kleck noted that it prevented other criminal activity as well, pointing out that it also lead to “a substantial drop” in burglaries throughout the city. 

Kleck’s tireless research going back decades alongside Kennesaw’s unusual but effective city ordinance demonstrates time and again that a civilian population trained in the proper use of firearms serves as an effective deterrent against violence and crime.

A deeper dive into gun ownership and crime prevention

Far from being some antiquated study, Kleck’s findings on the Kennesaw city ordinance are as true today as ever. Unfortunately, such details are often buried, hidden, or simply discarded by the legacy media in their dogged efforts to ban firearms. 

Writing for the Foundation for Economic Education, Lawrence W. Reed argues that “[l]iberty isn’t the only thing likely to be lost when gun laws are passed to appease emotions over reason.”  

Reed then asks in the exhausting, decades-long debate, “How many lives are actually saved by gun ownership?” A compelling question the “grandstanders and ideologues” on the Left refuse to acknowledge or answer.  He offers some noteworthy facts which — at the very least — foster an actual discussion on the many merits of gun ownership: 

  • Guns prevent an estimated 2.5 million crimes a year, or 6,849 every day. Most often, the gun is never fired, and no blood (including the criminal’s) is shed.
  • Every year, 400,000 life-threatening violent crimes are prevented using firearms.
  • 60 percent of convicted felons admitted that they avoided committing crimes when they knew the victim was armed. Forty percent of convicted felons admitted that they avoided committing crimes when they thought the victim might be armed. 
  • Felons report that they avoid entering houses where people are at home because they fear being shot.
  • Fewer than 1 percent of firearms are used in the commission of a crime.

The Heritage Foundation also provides an extensive database of Americans who “successfully defended their liberties, lives, or livelihoods with the lawful use of a firearm.”

The database is reinforced by the findings of the CDC and provides conclusive evidence contrary to all the hubris and hoodwinking of anti-gun crusaders: 

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” The Heritage Foundation continues, “almost every major study on defensive gun use has found that Americans use their firearms defensively between 500,000 and 3 million times each year. There’s good reason to believe that most defensive gun uses are never reported to law enforcement, much less picked up by local or national media outlets…[I]t highlights just a fraction of the incredible number of times Americans relied on the Second Amendment — not the government getting there in time — to protect their inalienable rights. Despite the limitations on data, these confirmed cases of defensive gun use help prove that the ‘good guy with a gun’ is not a myth, but an integral part of American society.”

Finally, Amy Swearer of The Daily Signal gives a wise summation of legal gun ownership after providing an extensive list of Americans who successfully defended themselves with a firearm in one month alone: “The exercise of Second Amendment rights in defense of self or others is not a rare or extraordinary event, but a daily occurrence in the lives of ordinary Americans doing ordinary things.”

What about the constant specter of mass shootings?

Charles C.W. Cooke’s brilliant 2018 essay for the National Review written in the wake of the El Paso shootings is proving to be a prescient piece on the pressing issue of mass shootings and gun control. To be sure, Cooke is quick to denounce the El Paso shooter as “a young white-supremacist man” compelled by an “abhorrent, villainous ideology.” 

Cooke, however, adamantly refuses to cede to the overtures from the Left that such horrific events serve as an indictment against “the United States as a whole” and — by extension — the Second Amendment. 

“Now, as ever,” Cooke writes, “the quality of a free society is measured by how that society protects its liberties when they have been abused, not by how well it celebrates them when they are under no strain. What happened in El Paso was an unconscionable disgrace, and, when we have finished reflecting upon it, we should exert great effort in considering how we might prevent its like from happening again. But if we turn against our key strengths in the process, we will achieve a Pyrrhic victory at best, and, at worst, end up dismantling our inheritance for a mess of pottage.”

Cooke also cites the findings of the RAND Corporation whose “relevant academic research… failed to find a single gun-control policy that has been proven to reduce mass shootings in the United States” at the time.

As heinous and frightening as mass shootings are, they do not contribute in any statistically significant way to the supposed data on gun violence. It’s the staggering and tragic spectacle of such macabre events that provide fodder to the many irrational arguments put forth by the detractors of the Second Amendment. 

In 2018, UC Davis Health reported that mass shootings contributed to only “0.2% of total firearm deaths.” 

More importantly, firearm-related homicides are far below the peak that occurred almost fifty years ago in 1974, according to the Pew Research Center

“On a per capita basis, there were 12 gun deaths per 100,000 people in 2017 — the highest rate in more than two decades, but still well below the 16.3 gun deaths per 100,000 people in 1974, the highest rate in the CDC’s online database.”

Sadly, suicides dominate the majority of firearm deaths, indicating — once again — far, deeper and malignant issues in our nation that so many refuse to consider or acknowledge. 

***

That something as simple as a city ordinance requiring gun ownership could dramatically cause the crime rate to plummet should be evidence enough on the merits of firearms as a deterrent. Yet, the fatiguing, dogmatic refrains opposed to the Second Amendment continue to drown out common sense, let alone actual data and evidence. As this shrill chorus continues to grow, one can’t help but conclude that many on the Left stand in opposition to the very idea of America itself. 

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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