If you follow the gun debate at all, you’re aware of the fact that Mike Bloomberg, the soon-to-be ex-Mayor of New York City, takes credit for a steep decline in the city’s crime rate due to his strict enforcement of the city’s tough gun laws. But while this may mean that very few city residents own legal guns, research published by Gary Kleck (UCLA Law Review, #56, 2009) indicates that within another few years, the number of illegal guns may exceed the number of adults living within the city. Imagine that! The city with the toughest gun laws will also be home to the largest number of guns. How is that possible?
According to Kleck, roughly 60,000 people move into New York City every year. He doesn’t know how many people move out of the city each year, he’s just interested in how many move in. Why? Because he assumes that they bring guns with them when they show up. In 2000, just under 800,000 NYC residents had been born in another state:
These migrants presumably moved their possessions with them. If handgun ownership among these migrants was equal to the U.S. average, migrants born in other states would have moved about 260,000 handguns from other states into NYC.
Kleck bases his calculations on the idea that per capita American handgun ownership is .0325 (one-third of a gun for every person.) But those numbers have changed. In fact, since the 1980s, handguns have entered the market over long guns by a ratio of two to one. So the per capita ownership of handguns is probably now close to 0.50. This being the case, if we follow Kleck’s logic to its ultimate conclusion, the continued migration of people into New York City from 2000 until 2013 means that at least 400,000 new handguns have come into town during the same period. Add this to the 2 million guns that NYPD believe were in the city in 1980, then tack on another 30,000 each year between 1981 and 2000, and we are up to 3 million guns.
If the demographic breakdown of New York City is anything like the national average, there are approximately 2,700,000 males between the ages of 18 and 65 living in the five boroughs right now. Since very few women own guns, let’s add in the men over the age of 65 and the total is still below the total number of guns floating around the Big Apple.
You don’t have to take my word for it. Just read Kleck’s article and do the math. New York City is the handgun haven of the United States. There’s no doubt about it.