At a hearing packed with victims of gun violence, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said Tuesday that cities with the strictest guns laws have murder rates many times those in his home state, where guns are readily available.
“For example, if you look at six cities with the highest murder rates, Detroit sadly in 2011 topped the list with 48 murders per 100,000 people,” said Cruz. “Baltimore, Maryland, was second with 31 murders per 100,000. Philadelphia was third with 21 murders per 100,000 people. Memphis, Tennessee, the only one of the top six without especially vigorous gun laws, was fourth with 18 murders per 100,000 people. Washington, D.C., was fifth with 18, and Chicago, Ill., was sixth with 16 murders per 100,000 people.”
By contrast, he said in his hometown of Houston, the murder rate was 9 murders per 100,000 people; in San Antonio, the number was seven, Austin, 4, and El Paso, 2. “That means that the rate in Detroit is 24 times higher than it is in El Paso,” said Cruz.
Cruz is the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, which was holding a hearing Tuesday on what subcommittee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., described as the need to reconcile Americans’ right to life, liberty and the happiness, with their Second Amendment right to bear arms.
At the opening of the packed hearing, Durbin asked the family of gun victims in rise, and some 100 people in the front rows stood up. It included family of children killed in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., late last year, the horror of which brought the issue of gun violence to the fore, made it a priority of President Obama, and put it atop the congressional agenda. Also present were the parents of Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old Chicago girl was shot just days after performing at Obama’s inauguration. The Pendletons are scheduled to sit with First Lady Michelle Obama at the State of the Union speech Tuesday night.
Cruz pointed out that Chicago and Washington, D.C., have a history of tough gun laws and high murder rates.
Durbin said, “Chicago is a great city but it’s not an island,” and said that in the city “9 percent of crime guns could be traced to the state of Mississippi.”
But Cruz said none of the Texas cities are islands either – they all exist in a state that has not attempted to restrict gun rights.
Cruz pressed the first witness, Timothy Heaphy, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, to offer any empirical evidence that gun restrictions yield less gun violence.
He didn’t but said, “it’s not an exact science,” and there is “a lot of alchemy to try to come up with single factors,” that explain relative levels of gun crimes.
Cruz did say that Durbin’s effort to enact legislation to toughen laws against straw purchases of firearms represented a potential area of legislative common ground.