Violence in Urban Areas and the 2nd Amendment

May 26th, 2011

As I discuss in the Constitutionality of Social Cost,one of the animating features of Justice Breyer’s dissents in Heller and McDonald is the concern for violence in urban areas. The natural corollary of this statement, is that non-urban areas are safer. Accordingly, he would be less skeptical of firearm laws in dangerous urban areas than in safe non-urban areas (I don’t think Justice Breyer would be deferential to any firearm restriction, but let’s assume).

A new report from the Brookings Institute looks to rates of violent crime in urban cities, and in suburbs. The report suggests the gap between dangerous cities and non-dangerous suburbs isn’t as great as one may think.

From the key findings:

  • The gap between city and suburban violent crime rates declined in nearly two-thirds of metro areas.  In 90 of the 100 largest metro areas, the gap between city and suburban property crime rates narrowed from 1990 to 2008.  In most metro areas, city and suburban crime rates rose or fell together.
  • Among suburban communities, older high-density suburbs registered the largest declines in crime rates. All types of suburban communities saw property crime rates fall over this time period.  Cities and high-density suburbs also saw violent crime rates decline, but low-density exurban communities experienced slight increases that are not

In fact, it seems that urban areas have seen the greatest decreases in crime rates.

“Crime rates have dropped everywhere, but they have declined the most in the nation’s inner cities that are often poorer, more urbanized, and more minority than their suburban counterparts,” Raphael said.

As I argue in my article, the Second Amendment lacks a geography clause, whereby it could mean different things in different places. While my argument is not premised on empirical data, these statistics cast doubt on Judge’s assumptions about a municipality, merely because it is urban.

H/T Sentencing Blog