More Guns, Less Crime? Latest FBI Crime Stats Tell the Tale. Or Not.

 

Despite having waded through John Lott’s stat-laden look at the connection between legal gun ownership rates and crime, I’m still not convinced that firearms ownership is the key variable for crime reduction. A variable, certainly. The most important variable? Dunno. But if correlation equals causation (every time), then way-hey! Because one’s thing’s fo sho’: gun ownership is up and crime is down. “According to the FBI’s Preliminary Annual Uniform Crime Report released today, the nation experienced a 4.0 percent decrease in the number of violent crimes and a 0.8 percent decline in the number of property crimes in 2011 when compared with data from 2010,” the Fibbie’s press release reveals. This in a down economy. Go figure.

comments

  1. avatar Stephen says:

    Japan has almost done away with civilian gun ownership yet it has one of, if not THE lowest homicide rate in the world. There ARE other factors besides guns.

    1. avatar CarlosT says:

      This is true. On the other hand, Switzerland’s is also extremely low, and military age males are issued fully automatic assault rifles (the real thing) which they carry around with them in daily life, and then when their term is over are given semi-auto versions to keep with them.

      Like you say, there are other factors. What this goes to show, is that the correlation of more guns -> more crime is most likely false.

      1. avatar Ralph says:

        +1

        It cannot be stated with certainty that more guns decrease crime. Although I do suspect that gun ownership is a factor in crime reduction, I can’t measure it and I don’t think anyone can. However, it can be stated with certainty that more guns have not led to more crime. So, if the gun-grabbers wish to present their agenda as one that reduces crime, they are FOS.

        1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

          “However, it can be stated with certainty that more guns have not led to more crime.”

          Unless you know all variables in a system and can account for them, any claim is baseless. In this case society and human behavior are way too complex for anyone to know all the variables much less account for them.

          We should not let anyone use statistics to challenge our right to keep and bear arms. The right is fundamental. It is not a function of map coordinates, someone’s feelings, activity, or anything else.

        2. avatar matt says:

          Guns decreasing crime has more to do on whether or not DGUs are prosecuted as criminal violations. See Zimmerman, he took out a shithead, but the stats will reflect that another murder took place.

        3. avatar Ralph says:

          uncommon_sense, you might want to rethink your comment, or read my comment again.

          I made no claim to causation, not did I reference future events. I stated that gun ownership has increased, but crime has not. Thus the statement that “more guns have not led to more crime” is true. Period.

        4. avatar uncommon_sense says:

          Hi Ralph,

          We can only say two things with certainty:
          (1) Crime is lower in 2011 than in 2010.
          (2) People own more guns in 2011 than 2010.
          (Of course that assumes that we trust government data which is a topic for another discussion.)

          The confusion or potential ambiguity that I point out is about baselines. Someone could claim that crime in 2011 would have been much lower if half the gun supply magically disappeared. If that is a person’s baseline, then they could argue that widespread availability of guns led to an increase crime. This is the same tactic that politicians use when they tell us they reduced our deficit — even though they still spent more money than they collected. They claim to reduce the deficit any time they spend less money than they would have spent.

          Whether or not you agree with that angle, I hope you see how others could rally behind it. That is why I say that we should keep statistics and data out of the discussion.

          We all have a fundamental right to keep and bear arms. It is no different than our fundamental right to keep and bear anything else that we want such as a stick, rock, cell phone, golf ball, whatever.

        5. avatar Ralph says:

          Uncommon_sense, if only you were correct.

          We owe our right to keep and bear arms to one Justice, who is the swing vote on this Court between the left and right wings and decided to vote with Scalia, Roberts, Thomas and Alito in Heller and McDonald. Tomorrow, the composition of the Court may change — and is very likely to change in the next four years — or Kennedy could decide that he has a major hardon for Scalia or would like to get into Sotomayor’s pants. Then things will change, and fast. Logic is the only constant.

        6. avatar uncommon_sense says:

          Ralph you point out the sad reality of our situation. Like you said if one justice sided differently, we would be in a world of hurt for gun rights.

          It’s too bad that so many people buy-in to the notion that our government grants and defines such basic rights as the right to carry inanimate objects and the right to self-defense.

    2. avatar Don says:

      Yes, culture. Crime is the observable side effect of other screwed up things in society. Guns could inhibit symptoms but can’t heal the motivating sub-factors which cause crime.

      -D

    3. avatar BLAMMO says:

      There is still a tremendous amount of cultural and social peer pressure in Japanese society. Personal responsibility, honor, shame and all the kind of stuff that has been virtually eradicated in American society.

    4. avatar matt says:

      I’m assuming that has more to do with cultural factors. The Hip Hop culture in the US is a perfect example. I mean really watch this video and tell me if you have high hopes for Hip Hop culture

      1. avatar Ralph says:

        A culture that glorifies violence is doomed.

        Which is why Samurai movies are really, really bad for Japan.

        1. avatar matt says:

          Do they watch Samurai movies in Japan? If anything I thought it would be Anime & tentacle rape porn. I would have elaborated further in the previous comment but RF just would have deleted it, you know why.

        2. avatar matt says:

          Do they watch Samurai movies in Japan? If anything I would have blamed Anime or tentacle raep ponr (damn you spam filter). I would have elaborated further, but RF would have deleted it, you know why.

        3. avatar Don says:

          I think a culture can enjoy violent fantasy as a check valve on actually committing real violence. When I say “culture” contributes to crime I mean that there is little shame about crime now days.

          -D

    5. avatar Aharon says:

      The Japanese also have a HIGH success rate in committing suicide. People will obviously find other ways to kill themselves without access to a gun.

      1. avatar matt says:

        When I used to ride the Metra (train), it would run over people 3 – 4 times per year on my way to/from work.

        1. avatar Ralph says:

          The Japanese are safer now that they have matt control.

  2. avatar Aharon says:

    An armed population is a motivation to criminals not to commit crime. The exact details or degree beyond that statement I’m not sure about.

    Yesterday, a friend told me how his 14 year old son and EVERY boy and girl on his block of houses is on some form of a daily ritalin-type of drug. Teens and younger kids (parents and adults) diets are heavy into salty fatty foods. They are often glued to the TV and computer screens. People are overweight, out of shape, and doped-up I sometimes wonder if any of those factors are causing a decrease in aggressive criminal behavior.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      You’re making a good case for Ritalin.

    2. avatar matt says:

      Yeah parents definitely do love to drug their kids, it is easier to blame the kids body chemistry than themselves as to why they act up. My parents tried the same with anti-depressants. They even managed to get a court order for me to be on Paxil and Zoloft when I was on probation as a kid. One of the many reasons why I ended up being the only white kid in Cook County Juvenile Detention Center for a month.

    3. avatar matt says:

      Yeah parents definitely do love to drug their kids, it is easier to blame the kids body chemistry than themselves as to why they act up. My parents tried the same with anti-depressants. They even managed to get a court order for me to be on P a x i l and Z o l o f t when I was on probation as a kid. One of the many reasons why I ended up being the only white kid in Cook County Juvenile Detention Center for a month.

  3. avatar Don says:

    While more guns may help (or at least make crime move to where there aren’t people with guns who make “bad” victims), I’d say the formula includes more employment, more education, more community, more civic and social awareness, less poverty, less oppression, less absolutism, less arrogance, less bravado, less exaggerated conflict, less posturing, more minding your own, more live and let live, more opportunity, more responsibility, more choices = less crime.

    -D

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      I rather think that one of the major factors is the aging of the population. Older people cause less violent crime. And the FBI notes that there has been a significant reduction in the young adult male population. So this may just be a blip on the radar until the next baby boom comes along.

    2. avatar Ralph says:

      Don, at a time when unemployment is very high, the education system is in the crapper, America is getting poorer and nobody leaves anyone alone, I can’t find a single reason why crime is down. And yet it is.

      Mark N is correct that older people commit fewer crimes, but even the teenage crime rate is down. I have no idea why, but I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth.

  4. avatar Mike Gray says:

    Sorry boss, correlation does not imply causation. You just fell victim to one of the classic blunders.

    1. avatar CarlosT says:

      No, but if your hypothesis predicts a certain correlation, and the evidence keeps producing the exact opposite correlation, then your hypothesis needs to be modified at the very least, and if the negative correlation is strong enough, outright rejected. In my opinion, the more guns -> more crime hypothesis has arrived at the rejection point.

      1. avatar Bob says:

        CarlosT said:
        “In my opinion, the more guns -> more crime hypothesis has arrived at the rejection point.”

        +1. When someone attempts to use a ‘correlation implies causation’ argument, but the facts do not support their argument, then the lack of correlation definitely disproves their ‘causation’ argument. Therefore we can definitely say that “More guns do NOT cause More crime”.

  5. avatar tdiinva says:

    The answer is always demographics. Crime rates are down because the population has aged and the crime prone age groups are a smaller percentage of the population. Reduced crime rates are one of the pluses of an aging society.

    However, widespread gun ownership does have an impact on the kind of crimes that happen and where they occur. We all know that the US has low rates of hot burglaries and home invasions than gunless societies like the UK. More guns probably do result in less crime at the margin. I remember someone posting a study by the Canadian Library of Parliament comparing crime rates in the Prairie Provinces with their state side neighbors, all which had similar demographics to Canada. The study found violent crime rates to be lower in the US than in Canada.

    1. avatar Anon in CT says:

      Also, a lot of criminals are in jail. We’ve locked up a lot of people, including a lot of career criminals.

  6. avatar Professor X says:

    The data used to look at effects of gun ownership (by those on any side of the issue) are lousy. There’s really no good evidence either way, which supports government doing nothing.

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      If governments do nothing, which is to be expected given the current political realities of rancour and gridlock, then it is up to the courts to act. And on that score, I see significant movement occurring. After oral arguments last week, there is reason for optimism that the 7th Circuit will throw out Illinois ban on the bearing of firearms, though whether that will mean open carry or concealed carry is yet to be seen. Apparently the Illinois AG did not do so well in arguing that Illinois could (contrary to Heller and MacDonald) ban the carrying of firearms.

  7. avatar Sig says:

    I’m about a third of a way onto Lott’s follow up book, The Bias Against Guns: Why Almost Everything You’ve Heard About Gun Control is Wrong and it makes some pretty interesting arguments about the validity of the statistics, and what specific things are being studied by whom and why.

  8. avatar John Lott says:

    Dear Mr. Farago:

    I am sorry, but I am very puzzled by your inaccurate statements by my book More Guns, Less Crime.

    1) Please provide one example in the book where I claim that “firearms ownership is the key variable for crime reduction.” Or that it is “the most important variable”? Indeed in multiple places I make it very clear that is not the case.

    2) My work doesn’t simply involve showing correlation equals causation. Again, please provide one example in my writings where I make that claim. What I show is that there are many different qualitative tests that rule out other explanations.

    I generally give anyone the benefit of the doubt if they say that they have read my book, but given your statements, I am a little dubious whether you could have actually read it.

    Sincerely,
    John Lott

  9. avatar John Lott says:

    Dear Mr. Farago:

    I do appreciate you taking the time to discuss my book, but, just so you know, my book claims that police are the single most important factor in reducing crime rates. Despite their importance, there are obvious limits to what the police can do as they almost always arrive at the crime scene after the crime has occurred. But they are still the single most important factor. There are also other factors that are more important than individual gun ownership. On the other side, hiring police officers is also relatively costly compared to individual gun ownership.

    Sincerely,
    John Lott

  10. avatar Slowburn says:

    Still waiting to see that column that separates the numbers of crimes committed by illegal aliens, green card holders and visa overstayers from the overall stats.
    If law-enforcement in every state started detaining until deportation every person arrested and found to be illegally in the U.S., there’d be such a drastic reduction in the overall crime rate in only one year that even those who keep the stats would have a hard time believing their own numbers.
    ( Not to mention the lives saved and billions of dollars that wouldn’t be wasted every year on people who’ve already committed crimes by being in the U.S. or staying in the U.S. illegally. )

  11. avatar Justyn says:

    I’d argue that that the legalization of abortion has had a greater effect on the crime rate than gun ownership.

  12. avatar Gene says:

    The point is not just that “firearms ownership is the key variable for crime reduction”, but that disarming law abiding citizens is not the way to reduce crime. Passing gun bans just takes the guns away from law abiding citizens and makes them targets, criminals don’t turn them in. This is one reason why cities in the US with the strictist gun laws have the most crime. In the last sixty year all but one of the mass shootings has occured in gun free zones. (criminals look for sof targets and they like the fame that the media insists on giving them.)

    By the way, Japan has a much different culture. They had a very low murder rate before the gun ban.

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