Washington has now recorded the three highest murder rates in the history of American big cities. A new bogus study on the District of Columbia's gun law, praised by The Times ("Facts Don't Kill People," editorial, Dec. 9), stopped with 1987. Since that time, the Washington homicide rate has risen 110% while rising 25% for big cities generally, and the authors assert the unscientific "article of faith" belief that the rate would have risen still faster without the handgun ban. How?
And how did the study's authors demonstrate that the law helped until 1987? They lied. There was a 30% drop in the homicide and gun-related homicide rates in Washington from 1974 to 1976--but the handgun ban then took effect in February, 1977. Averaging the 1977-87 period as was done in the bogus study, the Washington homicide rate rose 12% after 1976 while rising 9% among big cities generally. And Washington's rise would have been even greater but for the sharp decline from 1982-1985 associated with the adoption of an NRA-backed mandatory penalty for using a gun to commit a violent crime.
The bogus study, moreover, didn't look at other cities, and didn't even look at homicide rates per 100,000 population--the standard way of taking into account obvious population differences. Instead, they looked at the Maryland and Virginia suburbs constituting the Washington metropolitan area, and found the numbers of murders stable. But while Washington was losing population, the suburbs were burgeoning. Hence, after the Washington law took effect, the murder rate in Washington rose while it fell in the suburbs, where no new gun laws were adopted.