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Mystery: Virginia gun violence falls as gun sales soar
5 years ago

By Mary Katharine Ham

Freedom preserved and less crime for everyone. Nifty, huh?

Gun-related violent crime in Virginia has dropped steadily over the past six years as the sale of firearms has soared to a new record, according to an analysis of state crime data with state records of gun sales.

The total number of firearms purchased in Virginia increased 73 percent from 2006 to 2011. When state population increases are factored in, gun purchases per 100,000 Virginians rose 63 percent.

But the total number of gun-related violent crimes fell 24 percent over that period, and when adjusted for population, gun-related offenses dropped more than 27 percent, from 79 crimes per 100,000 in 2006 to 57 crimes in 2011.

The numbers appear to contradict a long-running popular narrative that more guns cause more violent crime, said Virginia Commonwealth University professor Thomas R. Baker, who compared Virginia crime data for those years with gun-dealer sales estimates obtained by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Correlation isn’t causation, of course, but what’s interesting about this research is how thoroughly it blows out the traditional causal argument of gun-control advocates. How thoroughly?

Thomas R. Baker, the professor who did this research for the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

“While there is a wealth of academic literature attempting to demonstrate the relationship between guns and crime, a very simple and intuitive demonstration of the numbers seems to point away from the premise that more guns leads to more crime, at least in Virginia,” said Baker, who specializes in research methods and criminology theory and has an interest in gun issues…

“So while it’s difficult to make a direct causal link (that more guns are resulting in less crime), the numbers certainly present that that’s a real possibility,” Baker added.

The opposite – that more guns are causing more crime – cannot be derived from the numbers, he said.

“It’s mathematically not possible, because the relationship is a negative relationship – they’re moving in the opposite direction,” Baker said. “So the only thing it could be is that more guns are causing less crime.”

So, let’s try it a different way. Just handguns!

Handgun-related offenses account for the majority of violent crimes committed in Virginia.

Because rifles and shotguns are used far less often to commit violent crimes, Baker said, one could argue that the purchase of those types of weapons is falsely inflating the total gun purchases in relation to total gun crime.

So Baker also examined the relationship between handgun purchases and handgun-related crime. He found a similar trend.

Handgun purchases in Virginia increased 112 percent from 2006 to 2011, but violent crimes committed with handguns fell by nearly 22 percent. When adjusted for population increases, handgun purchases rose a little more than 100 percent, but violent crimes committed with handguns dropped 26 percent, according to Baker’s analysis.

And, one more time, for the gun-control crowd. This time, we’ll take all crimes attributed to unknown gun types and assume they were committed with handguns. That oughtta do the trick.

“In fact, if all unknown gun types used in violent gun crimes are assumed to have been handguns, then handgun-related violent crime decreased just over 24 percent from 2006 to 2011,” he said.


This post was modified from its original form on 28 Nov, 8:00
5 years ago

And, for the finale, a gun-control lobbyist is reduced to using the talking points of gun-rights activists:

“It’s quite possible that you can sell a whole lot more guns and crime is still going down,” Goddard said. “But is the crime going down because more people are buying guns, or is the crime going down because the crime is going down?”

Goddard said he would not have expected a rise in crime from a rise in legal gun sales, because legal gun buyers are not usually criminals – otherwise they would not pass a background check to get them.“Predicting the actions of criminals by analyzing the behavior of legal gun buyers is not likely to be productive,” he said.

In 2011, Central Virginia accounted for most of the state’s gun sales, but coming in close behind was the bluest part of the state— Northern Virginia. NoVa has a much higher population than Central Virginia, so the per capita purchases would be lower, but I did not expect such a large chunk of gun sales to come in this fairly liberal bastion. Maybe we’re creating converts up here.

Virginia guns

So, who are the people buying all these guns? 
That’s right, ladies.

Many gun dealers point to women as the most significant demographic of new gun buyers. “We are seeing far more women now — empowering themselves I guess is the word for it,” said Marcus, of Bob’s Gun Shop in Norfolk.

Colonial Shooting Academy in Henrico has been selling out its eight-hour women-only basic pistol instruction classes for the past three months, said Ed Coleman, the general manager.

“The fastest-growing segment of the gun-owning population is women,” Coleman said. “The numbers of women that are buying firearms for the first time are far exceeding men.”

And, if you won’t listen to research, listen to Ice-T.


5 years ago

Gee, surprising that sales of firearms to those LEGALLY eligible to purchase (since these stats are likely form the activity of checks against the Federal data base of those with records) hasn't caused crime to increase. Of course the same can't be said for areas like Chicago where the guns on the street are not purchased legally if purchased at all and not stolen. The rise in gun sales has also been due to the election and now stealing (oops, reelection) of the most recent election of Dear Leader Obama.

5 years ago

John, correct on all counts.   Interesting that they didn't make the last of your points in this, but  that is the case.  People are gearing up for the fact that things are going to be much worse and they are not sure what to expect.  

I am from Washington State and the gun laws are strictly enforced there, too and I don't think that there is really any increase in gun violence due to gun sales at all; we all know that those committing acts of violence (for the most part) are not those that go out and purchase guns legally as they don't want any chance that the gun will be traced back to them.  Doesn't take a rocket scientist to know this.  Then we come to Fast and Furious; ooops, not supposed to mention that one, am I.

5 years ago

Americans need to protect themselves.    Our country is changing and we'll have to protect ourselves from "Obama's Police Force" LOL.     Honestly, this is going to be a long four years.   I was happy to see that my neck of the woods Northern Virginia feels a need to protect themselves under Obama's rule.    Interesting statistics above.

5 years ago

Let's see...

Chicago and Washington, D.C. existed in parallel for decades having both the most restrictive gun laws and hightest crime rates in the nation.

Guns do not convert upstanding citizens into depraved criminals upon delivery.

Criminals, like most other people, make decisions based on a number of factors including real and perceived risks.  Being shot upon attempting a crime is generally considered a risk.

On a more personal note, none of the guns I have ever owned have made any attempt to engage in crime of their own volition nor have they attempted to persuade or coerce me into the commission of a crime.

Guns in the hands of honest, lawful citizens are a threat to no one other than criminals.  Unfortunately, criminals who carry government ID are often the most fearful and most intent on eliminating our guns.

5 years ago

Because honest cittizens are getting them this is a big factor in why violence is down.  I hear what you are saying David.

5 years ago

Responsible people respect ownership of a firearm.    Most don't carry it on them.   They have guns in their homes for protection from an intruder someone who would kill them during a robbery or because they are mentally insane.    Americans should be able to protect themselves in the privacy of their own homes.    Perhaps that would stop home invasions.

5 years ago

Butcher knives kill.    Should we be made to remove all knives from our homes?   They are also considered weapons.

5 years ago

Diane, in Oregon if a person comes onto you property and threatens you or your family, property, etc., you are allowed to shoot them without fear of prosecution.  I believe if it were like that in more states we would see a much different response regarding the level of crime. Who is going to rob someone if there is reason to believe they are armed?  No with this I do believe that if you own firearms and have them in your home, every member of the family should be taught proper gun safety and it is the responsibility of the gun owner to see that this is accomplished.  There are other safety plans that can be put in affect, too. 

People will argue that if there are firearms in a home the childen can get them and either accidental shootings can occur or there would be more "Columbine" instances.  I do not believe that is true.  I grew up in an area where firearm ownership was extremely high as there were a lot of hunters.  In the 55 years I lived there there were only 2 accidental shootings (did not result in death) attributed to hunting accidents, and one 1 accidental shooting involving 2 high school boys (who went to school with my sons) and one boy did die.  It was not a "Columbine" situation, they were out target shooting and when they got home one boy was messing around accidentally shot himself and died.  The father of the one boy that owned the gun realized  that he made a mistake in letting his son go shooting with anyone that was not also trained in gun safety; it was the one that shot that was messing around with the gun and accidentally shot himself and had no training.

So I agree Diane, it is all about responsibility.  And as for knives; great point.  We could say the same about cars.  Should cars be taken away because they kill people?  Look at those that drink and drive for an example.  

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