The standard argument against gun control that we hear from the pro-gun lobby is a version of the foolish but memorable cliché, “if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.” Setting aside my rhetoric instructor-based objections to the phrase (if rutabagas were outlawed, then only outlaws would have rutabagas—by definition), the argument is clearly suggesting that criminals will get any gun they want, regardless of gun laws.
So let’s examine the best test case we have: fully automatic weapons, a.k.a. machine guns.
Newly manufactured machine guns have been illegal for civilians to own since 1986, and the grandfathered weapons are subject to an array of regulations such as a complete FBI background check for any prospective owner, and a $200 tax every time a weapon changes hands (http://www.guncite.com/...).
According to gun-nut logic, though, this should do nothing to keep them out of the hands of criminals. Remember, if machine guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have machine guns.
So how many crimes have been committed with such weapons? I’ll let the site above offer the answer:
Again in Targeting Guns, Kleck writes, four police officers were killed in the line of duty by machine guns from 1983 to 1992. (713 law enforcement officers were killed during that period, 651 with guns.)I would note that the guncite.com website I use is actually a pro-gun site, and sees these statistics as proof that gun laws are wicked or foolish or something (you can try to untangle the backward twisted logic that leads to this conclusion if you like; it’s at the end of the article). In any case, it seems clear even the pro-gun folks have to accept that gun control has a fantastically effective record when it’s taken seriously.
In 1980, when Miami's homicide rate was at an all-time high, less than 1% of all homicides involved machine guns. (Miami was supposedly a "machine gun Mecca" and drug trafficking capital of the U.S.) Although there are no national figures to compare to, machine gun deaths were probably lower elsewhere. Kleck cites several examples:
• Of 2,200 guns recovered by Minneapolis police (1987-1989), not one was fully automatic.
• A total of 420 weapons, including 375 guns, were seized during drug warrant executions and arrests by the Metropolitan Area Narcotics Squad (Will and Grundie counties in the Chicago metropolitan area, 1980-1989). None of the guns was a machine gun.
• 16 of 2,359 (0.7%) of the guns seized in the Detroit area (1991-1992) in connection with "the investigation of narcotics trafficking operations" were machine guns.