Puerto Rico and Washington DC are the two places in the US with the highest murder rates. They have strict gun laws.
New Hampshire and Vermont have the lowest murder rates. They have “loose” gun laws.
Murder Rates (per 100,000 residents)
Puerto Rico 30
Washington DC 20
New Hampshire 1.2
Here are the eight states, in order whose murder rate was less than 2 over 2010 and 2011: New Hampshire, Vermont, Iowa, Hawaii, Minnesota, Idaho, Maine and Utah.
Of these 8, only Hawaii has particularly strict gun laws.
And here are the six states (including DC and Puerto Rico) whose murder rate was over 7: Puerto Rico, District of Columbia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Maryland.
Puerto Rico and DC have among the strictest gun laws in the nation. Maryland also has fairly strict laws, such as a ban on sales of high capacity magazines. The other three states have permissive gun laws.
Does this mean more guns leads to less crime? I don’t go as far as some on that. But it does make it pretty clear that strict gun laws do not create lower homicide rates.
Some argue that DC’s gun laws are ineffective because people can buy guns easily in neighboring Virginia, thus requiring federal gun laws. But Puerto Rico is an island, with no neighboring state from which to buy guns.
Analyzing statistics from the states does suggest another angle. Some have written about the problem of Black-on-Black crime, such as the Wall Street Journal.
I prepared a spreadsheet with murder rates and demographics (leaving out Puerto Rico). The correlation between murder and percentage of black population is 80% – pretty strong. Here’s a graph:
DC is in the upper right corner. Louisiana and Mississippi are also toward the upper right. States in the lower left corner, like NH and VT, have low murder rates and low black populations.
Numbers are never perfect and the correlation is not 100%. New Mexico has a high murder rate without a large black population. Virginia, a state with notably loose gun laws, has a large black population with average violent crime rates. But still, the 80% correlation is quite strong.
Rather than looking at our gun laws, we need a harder look at why there is so much violent crime in some communities. Of course black population is not a cause (as Virginia demonstrates) but may help point to other causes. The drug war causes violent crime, just like Prohibition did. There may well be other causes.