Kennesaw gun ordinance, yet again

In an opinion piece in the New York Times Glenn Reynolds claims:

Last month, Greenleaf, Idaho, adopted Ordinance 208, calling for its citizens to own guns and keep them ready in their homes in case of emergency. …

And it may not be a bad idea. While pro-gun laws like the one in Greenleaf are mostly symbolic, to the extent that they actually make a difference, it is likely to be a positive one.

Greenleaf is following in the footsteps of Kennesaw, Ga., which in 1982 passed a mandatory gun ownership law in response to a handgun ban passed in Morton Grove, Ill. Kennesaw’s crime dropped sharply, while Morton Grove’s did not.

This is precisely backwards. Burglaries in Kennesaw did not change significantly, while Morton Grove’s burglary rate fell by 4.5 burglaries per month. (See McDowall et al Criminology v29 p541-560 (1991). Look at the graphs:

i-33bb9f05dbc7aa66a794dc335151bd16-kennesaw.png

i-48af08f1363b619bd7067b2adc6071fc-mortongrove.png

So what made Reynolds think that crime had declined in Kennesaw? McDowall et al dryly observe:

There is a curious discrepancy between the number of burglaries reported by Kennesaw’s mayor in interviews cited by Kleck (1988) and Schmidt (1987a) and the number of burglaries reported by Kennesaw’s police department to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s police department to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) system. The mayor claimed to Schmidt, for example, that there were 55 residential burglaries in 1981, before he law was passed. This is greater than the total number of all burglaries — residential and otherwise — reported by the police department to the UCR. Given the mayor’s spirited advocacy of the ordinance and the apparent differences in the figures he provided in separate interviews cited by Schmidt and by Kleck, we believe the UCR counts are the more accurate of the two.

Reynolds has no excuse for spreading this falsehood, since we’ve been around on this before.

Reynolds also claims

Criminals, unsurprisingly, would rather break into a house where they aren’t at risk of being shot. As David Kopel noted in a 2001 article in The Arizona Law Review, burglars report that they try to avoid homes where armed residents are likely to be present. We see this phenomenon internationally, too, with the United States having a lower proportion of “hot” burglaries — break-ins where the burglars know the home to be occupied — than countries with restrictive gun laws.

But in The Effects of Gun Prevalence on Burglary: Deterrence vs Inducement Philip Cook and Jens Ludwig found that areas in the US with higher gun ownership tended to have more burglaries, and more burglaries where the residents were home. Internationally, it’s a wash with England having a greater hot burglary rate than the US and Canada and Australia having similar rates to the US.

Comments

  1. #1 geoff
    January 16, 2007

    Just eyeballing the trends, it looks like Reynolds’ claim is justified from 82 – 85. Kennesaw drops from a mean of around 3.5 to around 2, while Morton Grove stays constant. After 85 the trends reverse dramatically, making one think that other effects are coming into play.

  2. #2 adolfo_velasquez
    January 16, 2007

    I believe that the NYT editorial made the claim that crime rates went down in Kennesaw, not specifically burglaries.

    Do you have any numbers on non-burglary crime? Armed robbery? Domestic abuse?

  3. #3 Tim Lambert
    January 16, 2007

    There was a 45% reduction in with-gun robberies in Morton Grove, and a 100% increase in with-gun assaults in Kennesaw. The actual numbers were small, so this is not particularly meaningful. Other crime rates didn’t change.

  4. #4 geoff
    January 16, 2007

    Over what time period? That’s certainly not what the 3 year period after 1982 shows.

  5. #5 geoff
    January 16, 2007

    But this is not a very useful case anyway, and the data you’ve provided is a little misleading. Kennesaw had a high rate of gun ownership before the ordnance was passed, so the difference after 1982 wouldn’t be expected to be all that dramatic. And Kennesaw was a tiny little town of around 5000, so it’s experiences may not be typical. Finally, the town doubled in size between 1983 and 1994, so showing the absolute number of burglaries is not appropriate, and the data would need to be adjusted for the presumably improving economic circumstances in the town.

    And it looks like Morton Grove has been steadily aging and shrinking a bit. Completely different part of the civic life cycle.

    As usual the statistics are not going to be much help, because by the time you’ve corrected for demographics and growth, you’ve probably washed out the data.

  6. #6 erg
    January 16, 2007

    “As usual the statistics are not going to be much help, because by the time you’ve corrected for demographics and growth, you’ve probably washed out the data.”

    In which case Reynolds is being at least disingenous and at worst lying when he brings up this statistic.

    My personal opinion is that most stats attempting to correlate (either positively or negatively) gun ownership, changes thereof etc. with crime rates are indulging in statistical massaging because any impact of gun ownership is lost in the noise in the data.

  7. #7 geoff
    January 16, 2007

    Anecdotally, the important thing is that the fine people of Kennesaw remain delighted with their ordinance, and claim a crime rate 1/4 of the US average. And if they think it works for them, I can’t imagine why one would want to force them to do otherwise.

  8. #8 Archibald
    January 16, 2007

    “Anecdotally, the important thing is that the fine people of Kennesaw remain delighted with their ordinance, and claim a crime rate 1/4 of the US average. And if they think it works for them, I can’t imagine why one would want to force them to do otherwise.”

    This line of argument crops up often and while it sounds fair-minded it ignores the nature of law in the United States. Even if every single citizen in a community agrees to an ordinance there are limits to the lawful powers of a municipal government. I know that it is frustrating for the communities involved but imagine if no such limits existed. Imagine the potential issues relating to traffic laws (now entering Vicksburg, please drive on the left) or dress codes (Welcome to Malibu, thong check, 1/4 mile…). I know that this seems like pointless exaggeration but for any national issue the first public policy argument is well who cares if Nome bans flag-burning, or teaches intelligent design, or refuses to zone land for a Mormon temple, or requires racial preferences in hiring, or….

  9. #9 geoff
    January 16, 2007

    That does seem off the mark. Some of your examples are unconstitutional, and many happen right now and are quite legal (for better or worse). States, for instance, have different admissions criteria for their universities based on racial preferences. There have been several incidences where creationism or ID have been pushed by school boards or the State itself.

    We also have discontinuity in gun laws from state to state, so that the right to carry in one state is not respected in the next. I’ve read stories about people who were driving through states (Oregon? I think so), getting stopped for a traffic violation, and then getting nailed for a gun violation even though they were abiding by their home state’s laws.

    Until you can show that a violation of the federal or state constitution has occurred, or a violation of federal or state law has occurred, I think you should leave these people be.

  10. #10 geoff
    January 16, 2007

    In which case Reynolds is being at least disingenous and at worst lying when he brings up this statistic.

    I don’t think that is certain since we haven’t seen his data, though I doubt it’s much more impressive than what’s shown here. And I don’t think attributing foul motives is a promising path of inquiry when Occam’s Razor says he simply picked a handy example from the pro-gun literature and didn’t inspect it too closely.

  11. #11 Archibald
    January 16, 2007

    Geoff, I am afraid I have not explained my point well. What is or is not lawful at any moment is in flux. We simply do not know at the outset what will be found to be constitutional or unconstitutional. When a community (town, state, entire nation) introduces a novel solution to a problem it must be tested through the judicial system to integrate it within existing law. It is inherent to the system then that when something like this comes up the one thing which will never happen is that the community will be left alone. It is natural that those living in the communities affected perceive this as local law being over-ruled by outsiders but a more accurate description is that national (or state) law is being made and they happen to be there to see it!

  12. #12 Wadard
    January 17, 2007

    My mad uncle in Joburg, S.Africa must be the only dude who does not keep a gun at home, or carry one with him in the city with the world’s second highest crime rate. His logic is that in many cases they are after your gun itself to further their careers, and when they are not he believes not having a gun forces him to rely on his wits and his blague in a situation. He has twice had intruders but my Aunt and Uncle were forced to keep their cool and talk themselves into taking control of the situation. Works for him.

  13. #13 Kevin P.
    January 17, 2007

    Archibald:

    Geoff, I am afraid I have not explained my point well. What is or is not lawful at any moment is in flux. We simply do not know at the outset what will be found to be constitutional or unconstitutional. When a community (town, state, entire nation) introduces a novel solution to a problem it must be tested through the judicial system to integrate it within existing law.

    Many states delegate some of their militia power to their political subdivisions. Thus Kennesaw might be legally authorized to require its householders to own firearms.

    As a practical matter, I don’t like forcing people to own guns against their will. However, there are many things in the Constitution and the general laws that I don’t like.

  14. #14 ben
    January 18, 2007

    Small towns aren’t that big a deal. My home town in Eastern Oregon had a population of about 14k, they had quite a selection of handguns at the local Payless drug store, and they had about one murder every 5 years. The only murder that happened while I lived there was a guy taking a hatchet to a college girl in the middle of the park next to my house. My uncle found her the next morning. From a distance he thought she was doing calisthenics, but something seemed wrong. She died on her way to the hospital with massive head injuries. I remember the blood stained the grass for months.

  15. #15 John Wright
    February 2, 2007

    Misleading and typically illogical. Here Tim quotes from an article making the point that “criminals, unsurprisingly, would rather break into a house where they aren’t at risk of being shot…” and then proceeds to assert that this is not the case without explaining how this obvious fact could not be a relevant factor. Unbelievable.

  16. #16 Jeff
    August 27, 2007

    http://www.rense.com/general9/gunlaw.htm indicates that there are easily obtained exemptions. Not everyone is “forced” to own a gun.

  17. #17 Fenchel
    April 6, 2008

    There has been a lot of speculation at this site as to whether or not the 1982 ordinance requiring residents to have a gun and ammo in the home has made a difference. Rather than make an apple and orange comparison of different cities or different crimes, why can we not ask the local authorities to give us the local crime statistics since the enaction of the gun ordinance?

    My personal belief is that society is safer when terrorists and criminals don’t know who’s armed. It is completely obvious that the police can only react but never prevent an attack. Every citizen should vote for concealed carry in order to have better protection.

  18. [...] Kennesaw gun ordinance, yet again ? Deltoid Basically, their math is suspect. The town of Morton Grove (the one Kennesaw was protesting) actually did see a steep decline in burglaries and violent crime. Kennesaw's statistics really didn't change all that much. Also, for those saying that mandated gun ownership is unconstitutional, they are right… In regards to the federal government. States, on the other hand, have every right to do this. However, it hasn't been done anywhere. The specific towns that have these laws (like Kennesaw), only drafted this legislation as a means of protest. These laws are never enforced, thus their affects on overall crime rates is basically negligible. And the one comment that actually made me post on this forum instead of the occasional "lurking"… Quote: [...]