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Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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The D.C. Gun Ban Doesn’t Work


In yesterday’s Washington Post, there was an article about gun traffickers who are robbing gun stores in Virginia in order to sell the guns to people in Washington, D.C. The story is timely given that the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments today in a case involving the constitutionality of D.C.’s gun ban.

According to the article,

“Firearms traffickers such as Lewis profit in an underground economy that has bustled for decades in the District, regardless of the city’s long-debated prohibition on handgun ownership, one of the toughest gun-control laws in the nation.”

It is not a coincidence that a black market in D.C. handguns has been going on for decades and that the handgun ban in D.C. has been in effect for 32 years. The handgun ban itself gives rise to a black market in handguns, just as making drugs illegal has given rise to a black market in drugs.

At least one government official seems to be aware of this economic phenomenon. As Edgar A. Domenech, head of the Washington field office of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, aptly put it, “You’re talking about supply and demand.”

There are two lessons to be learned from this.

First, making guns illegal gives rise to collateral crime — theft of guns. Why is this? Because the illegality makes the price of guns in D.C. artificially high, making it extremely profitable to steal them in Virginia and sell them in D.C. (The drug war has produced a similar cascade of collateral crime, such as muggings, thefts, and robberies in order to get the money to pay the exorbitant black-market prices of illegal drugs.)

Second, real criminals don’t give a hoot about gun-control laws. In other words, a robber or a rapist in D.C. isn’t going to say to himself, “I can’t use a gun to commit this crime because that would be illegal.”

Therefore, the people who are disarmed by a gun ban are not the violent criminals but rather the peaceful and law-abiding people who now are unable to defend themselves and their families from the violent criminals who don’t care that they are violating a gun ban by using a prohibited handgun in the commission of the crime.

Is it any surprise that Washington, D.C., has been called the murder capital of the United States? After enacting their gun ban 32 years ago, D.C. officials should have initiated a nationwide advertising campaign proclaiming: “Attention robbers, murderers, muggers, burglars, rapists, and thieves! Come to the most glorious model city in the country — Washington, D.C. — a gun-free zone, one where people are prevented from defending himself from you.”

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.