Last year, when the number of homicides nationwide fell dramatically, murders in San Francisco surged. The district attorney called it an epidemic, police targeted new gang activity, and the mayor went door-to-door in one of the city’s roughest neighborhoods to plead for calm. A member of the Board of Supervisors, Chris Daly, proposed a ban on handguns, prohibiting any resident from making, buying, or even owning them. If approved by voters this fall, the ballot measure would give San Francisco the toughest handgun laws of any major U.S. city, says the Christian Science Monitor.
Most experts are not convinced that handgun bans have a significant effect on crime; some say the ban’s most likely outcome would be to provoke the national gun lobby in the same way that San Francisco’s gay marriages riled cultural conservatives. Two major cities – Washington and Chicago – have had similar bans in place for more than 20 years. Daly cites a 1991 study by the New England Journal of Medicine that suggests that the ban in Washington had an effect on violent crime in the years immediately after it began in 1976. Others say the greatest success in lowering murder rates has come when law-enforcement officials have made taking guns from criminals a top priority. “There is no cheap way out of this,” says Philip Cook, a public-policy professor at Duke University. “Criminals have a way of getting guns no matter what the law is.”