Virginia: More Guns, Less Crime. Proven. Kinda.

 

I liked living in Virginia. Well, except for the cost of living, the lack of good ranges (that are actually open) and the general proximity to DC. But even though I could see the National Cathedral from my office window and have fond memories of carrying a concealed weapon while looking across the river at the Washington Monument, the politics of the district seemed to stop at the Potomac. Virginia is one of the most firearms friendly states in the United States, being a “shall issue” permit state as well as an open carry state and with CLEOs ready and willing sign off on the paperwork. According to a new study, all those guns may have contributed to a drop in crime in the state . . .

From the Times Dispatch out of Richmond:

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.

Even though those numbers appear to support my own views on the matter, I’m still skeptical at this point. Then again, we’re on paragraph #4 of the article. As much as I want to jump all over statistics that support my beliefs, what separates us from “gun control advocates” is that we actually care about facts and proper statistics and stuff. You know, the truth.

So, details then?

At the request of The Times-Dispatch, Baker examined six years of data compiled by Virginia State Police through the Virginia Firearms Transaction Center that breaks down the number of gun transactions for every federally licensed firearm dealer in Virginia. It includes the number and types of guns they sought to sell based on requested state background checks of the purchasers.

Baker then compared the data with state crime figures for those years.

The data, Baker said, show a low probability that more guns in the hands of Virginians is causing more violent crime.

“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.

Ah, a man after my own heart. Even when his study indicates a positive link, he doesn’t outright claim that that’s the case. But even when the hypothesis can’t be proven, can we disprove the null hypotheses of gun control, that more guns = more death and destruction?

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.”

In other words, the “blood in the streets” claim is complete and total bullshit. Once again, the actual statistics based on real world data have proven that more guns don’t inherently cause more crime.

This next bit here is really interesting:

The multiple years of data for gun purchases and gun-related crime help strengthen the premise that more gun sales are not leading to an increase in crime. Using what Baker calls the “lag model,” the data show that an increase in gun purchases for one year usually is followed by a decrease in crime the next year.

Did you catch that? While I’d love to see what his “model” consists of, the idea that there’s a significant drop in crime following a large purchase of guns by the population seems to indicate a deterrent effect. If everyone owns a gun, then criminals figure it out and stop.

Baker doesn’t stop there, though. He goes into full-on common sense mode and lays some smack-down on stats abusers:

Baker said a more detailed analysis may find pockets of the state where increased guns sales have been followed by an increase in gun-related violent crime.

“But I’m not interested in that small, nuanced component,” he said. “As a scientist, you don’t want to focus on individual instance. That’s what gets people into making these overgeneralizations about things like some of the tragedies that have been gun-related in the United States.”

At some point, the sample size you’re looking at is too small to be statistically relevant to the population as a whole. Isaac Asimov developed a similar idea as “psychohistory” in the Foundation series, but the general concept is the same — you can predict the behavior of large groups of people through statistics, but the individual or small group is invisible to mathematics and generally irrelevant. Unless they’re a mutant that starts taking over planets.

Anyway, you can always find an event that bucks the trend and the tendency for people to focus on those events is what fuels the fear that leads to gun control.

Something not fully addressed is the note that aggravated assault with a firearm increased as firearms ownership increased. Whether aggravated assaults overall increased was not discussed but I wouldn’t be surprised if the total number of aggravated assaults, like suicides, was independent of gun ownership and that percentage only reflected the availability of the tools at hand.

In response to the numbers, the head honcho of gun control in the state completely side-stepped the actual situation (the BS status of the blood in the streets claim):

“I’m not surprised that it would appear that more guns is going along with less crime, because there’s been a downward trend in violent crime anyway,” said Andrew Goddard, president of the Virginia Center for Public Safety.

[...]

“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?”

“If you look at the numbers of people who are dying from guns every year, including suicides and accidents, then you’re not going to see a difference,” he said. “Gun sales are going up, and the annual death rate in Virginia is staying pretty much constant.”

I don’t think he quite understands the difference between a raw number and an adjusted rate. Either way, it certainly doesn’t support his assertion that more gun control would lead to fewer deaths. He even says so himself:

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.

Now that’s some common sense right there — legal gun owners not being criminals. So why is he fighting so hard to stop something that he himself admits isn’t causing crime and isn’t hurting people? Oh, right.