Restrictive Gun Laws Don’t Make for Safer Cities

By: Kirsten Koschnick

The leftwing Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence collaborated with the Brady Campaign last year to produce a study purportedly showing a correlation between strict guns laws and lower gun-crime rates. But the study was flawed, and a Media Trackers review of FBI-crime statistics shows that there is no connection between strict gun laws and less gun crime.

The below chart looks at the 10 highest crime cities* and 10 lowest crime cities with populations over 250,000 according to FBI data and compares the cities to the LCPGV/Brady Campaign letter grade assigned to the state for its gun laws.

City Population Violent Crime Rate (Per 100,000)
Detroit, MI C 707,096 2122.91
Oakland, CA A- 399,487 1993.31
St Louis, MO F 318,667 1776.46
Memphis, TN F 657,436 1750.28
Stockton, CA A- 299,105 1547.95
Baltimore, MD A- 625,474 1405.17
Cleveland, OH D 393,781 1383.76
Atlanta, GA F 437,041 1379.05
Milwaukee, WI C- 599,395 1294.47
Buffalo, NY A- 262,434 1288.7
Santa Ana, CA A- 332,482 401.22
Mesa, AZ F 451,391 399.65
Lincoln, NE D 264,175 379.46
Anaheim, CA A- 344,526 371.23
San Jose, CA A- 976,459 363.25
Fort Wayne, IN D- 256,625 362.79
Lexington, KY F 302,332 352.59
Virginia Beach, VA D 447,588 169.35
Henderson, NV F 263,469 168.9
Plano, TX F 273,816 130.74


The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence is a non-profit organization founded by attorneys. It attempts to serve as a “comprehensive resource for information on U.S. firearms regulation” in order to achieve stricter gun policies like universal background checks, magazine capacity restrictions, strong limitations on firearms in public places, and firearms registration.

The LCPGV/Brady Campaign’s “2013 State Scorecard” assigned letter grades to states based on each individual state’s policies on background checks, access to firearms, regulations of sales and transfers, gun owner accountability, firearms in public places, investigating gun crimes, and local authorities’ ability to regulate guns in order to assess the severity of each individual state’s gun control laws.

The highest letter grade awarded was A-, for states with restrictive gun laws, and the lowest grade awarded was F, for states with lenient gun laws.

The website shows a color-coded map displaying the 10 states with the lowest gun death rates and the 10 with the highest gun death rates, along with their corresponding letter grades.

However, the “gun death rate” that the site uses to show correlation between states with strict gun laws and fewer gun deaths is known to be an unreliable metric to assess crime. As the Pew Research Center points out, gun suicides have continued to outnumber gun homicides since the Center for Disease Control and Prevention began publishing that data in 1981. Therefore, as we have seen even more of a decline in homicides and an increase in suicides in recent years, suicides continue to make up a progressively greater portion of firearm-related deaths.

Using gun death rates to provide an accurate representation of the type of gun-related crimes that most people think of when they talk about a need for gun control clearly does not work.

To conduct a more accurate analysis of how gun laws actually affect the criminal use of guns, Media Trackers used rates for violent crime in large cities that were reported in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report of 2012. After compiling the list, Media Trackers compared the violent crime rates to the severity of local gun laws by looking at the letter grade the state received.

Unlike the LCPGV report, this method showed no correlation between restrictive gun laws and lower crime rates.

Among the top ten cities for highest violent crime rate, 4 of them are located in states that received an A-, two received C-range grades, one received a D and three received F’s. For the states with the lowest violent crime rates there were 3 A- grades (all located in California), there were no B’s or C’s, but there were three D’s and four F’s.

*Media Trackers was unable to use Chicago in the analysis because it does not comply with UCR Program guidelines for violent crime reporting.