VA: More Guns, Less Crime?

Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence Scorecard (courtesy bradycampaign.org)

I don’t think John Lott’s seminal work on the link between firearms ownership and crime rates—More Guns, Less Crimehas found a home in mass media’s collective conscious. Not if the subhead underneath Gun-related homicides and injuries down as firearm sales soar is any indication. “Analysis shows deaths have decreased in Virginia despite a surge in business.” Despite? How about because?  Virginia timesdispact.com‘s Mark Bowes jumps through a lot of hoops to avoid the MGLC conclusion. “Gun-related homicides and serious injuries from gun assaults in Virginia have been trending downward for at least six years, and a new survey suggests the state’s booming gun sales have not triggered an increase in the proportion of people slain by a gun or who use a firearm to commit suicide.” We’ll take it! But the numbers are a LOT more conclusive (looking) than Mr. Bowes’ initial indication . . .

When state population increases are factored in, gun-related homicides fell 37 percent, from 4.72 deaths per 100,000 in 2005 to 2.99 in 2011.

Injuries from gun-related assaults in Virginia that required hospitalization have declined four of those same seven years from 392 injuries to 283, a drop of 28 percent, according to Virginia Department of Health records.

This “despite” a 73 percent increase in firearms sales in Old Dominion over the same seven year period.

Virginia Commonwealth University professor Thomas R. Baker performed the statistical analysis on the Times Dispatch’s behalf. To say the Go Rams! egghead was taken aback by the data would be like saying Victoria Katsman has a sexy back. Prevarication thy name is Baker.

What’s more, “the increased availability of guns does not seem to correlate with an increase in the proportion of suicides and homicides by gun,” said Virginia Commonwealth University professor Thomas R. Baker, who in an analysis compared state vital records data on homicides and suicides with Virginia gun dealer sales estimates obtained by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

“It’s actually quite surprising and the opposite of what I would have hypothesized,” Baker said. “I would have thought that aggregate increases in gun sales would directly correlate to aggregate increases in the proportion of suicides and homicides by gun. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.”

This “who knew not me but there it is” statement has landed Dr. B in hot water amongst civilian disarmament advocates. Unfrortunately, Dr. B doesn’t know hot to utilize the acronym FOAD.

Baker was strongly criticized by some gun control advocates in Virginia, who believed Baker was suggesting the increased availability of guns could be linked directly to the fall in crime.

“I never tried to argue that more guns led to less crime — just that more guns did not lead to more crime,” Baker said last week. “That was my only point.”

Baker said he’s not necessarily onboard with some academic studies that indicate more guns have caused a reduction in crime through deterrence.

“I don’t know if that’s true,” he said. However, the Virginia data “pointed out that that was possible.”

Confronted with the findings, VA’s gun control industry resorted to the only tactic left available: moving the goalposts. The article concludes with a debate about firearms and suicide which, as Virginia Citizens Defense League Prez Philip Van Cleave points out, is a whale-sized red herring. “Japan has a much higher suicide rate than the U.S., and virtually none of those suicides involves a firearm.” So now you know.

The article ends with a perfect example of firearms facts denial.

Marcella Fierro, who retired in 2008 as Virginia’s chief medical examiner, said it remains to be seen whether a correlation exists between a greater availability of guns and firearm deaths. It depends on “whose hands they are in,” she said.

“If they’re good citizens, they’ll act responsibly,” Fierro said. “But we’ll see if the number of suicides increases. To me, it really depends on that lethal triad of emotional illness/depression, alcohol and easy access to firearms.”

When it comes to infringing on Americans’ Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms, losing the arguments means never have to say you’re wrong.

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

32 Responses to VA: More Guns, Less Crime?

  1. avatarTangledThorns says:

    VA is gun friendly for now but don’t take it for granted. I live in the part of North VA, an ever growing population of DC liberals that are ignorant of our state’s gun laws.

    • avatarBrad says:

      Exactly TT. Get this, I heard one MD resident (ardent anti-gunner) in my office talking about wanting to move to NOVA because, and I quote “the crime rate is much lower.” Bwahahah! It is to laugh. The irony, oh the irony. So he’ll move here and vote for anti-gun legislation. The irony just kills me.

    • avatarMick says:

      Yea, NOVA as a region is probably more liberal than states like MA or RI, taken as a whole. I’ll be so, so glad when I retire so that I can move out of this cesspool of statism.

    • avatarRokurota says:

      Yes. I’ve been trying to sound the alarm over the coming McAuliffe apocalypse. Get involved, Virginians!

    • avatarClayton says:

      Not all NOVA people are bad, I promise! Guns are awesome! Though then again, I’m a transplant from Florida, so I guess I don’t technically count.

    • avatartdiinva says:

      You are forgetting that Article I, Section 13 of the Virginia Constitution, the “Virginia Second Amendment written by James Madison ” leaves no ambiguity about the citizen’s right to bear arms. We are a constitutional open carry state. It would be very hard for gun control laws to pass constitutional muster.

      The Virginia Governor’s race is a dead head at this point. McAuliffe is an outsider who does not appeal to the kind of downstate Democratic voters who voted for Craig Deeds in the last primary. These off year elections are low turnout and the low information voters who flocked to Obama will stay home for McAuliffe. Just remember that Democrats rack up big majorities in a few districts and win close election for state wide office without getting control of the legislature. Often the Governor’s race is decided on a few key issues and gun control does not favor McAuliffe even among Virginia Democrats. If you want to ensure that McAuliffe doesn’t have the ability to mess with the guns laws make sure that the House of Delegates stays pro-Second Amendment this year. Besides, the State Senate is not up for re-election and will remain in Republican hands until at least 2016.

  2. avatarAndrew says:

    I saw this map on reddit and thought it was interesting. http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-BmJ0sd4XzTA/UBGlpDVugcI/AAAAAAAAACE/jE3NiGKEPZY/s1600/StateGuns.jpg States like California & Illinois have less firearms and more deaths. Louisiana and Mississippi have lots of guns and lots of firearms deaths. I’m unsure if gun deaths is total or per 100,000 people like the ownership is. This could skew the shading a little. Either way, it seems like total gun ownership doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

    • avatarAlphaGeek says:

      As a CA resident, I can tell you that CA definitely has a larger percentage of persons possessing firearms who have criminal records than in states with more liberal gun laws.

      Note that I phrased that most carefully, as they’re generally not gun owners as I define it. I’m convinced that possession of guns that you don’t own, or are on legit temporary loan to you, has to be one of the single best indicators that you intend evil deeds.

    • avatarMatt in FL says:

      From the original source:

      EDIT (14 Jan 2013): This page has been surging in popularity since the Sandy Hook tragedy, so I must reiterate that the data shown on this map only accounts for legally-owned guns.
      Also, the firearm death statistic is not measured in terms of total deaths; it has been normalized by population (i.e., deaths per 100,000). Please keep this in mind as you scan the map. Thank you.

    • avatartdiinva says:

      You have to go beyond the state level. There are two reasons for Lousianna to have such high murder rate: New Orleans and Baton Rouge. I don’t about Mississippi.

  3. avatarAlphaGeek says:

    Ok, this is ridiculous. I just had two separate versions of a completely innocuous and constructive comment suppressed by the WP filters.

    Seriously, WTF? Do I need to switch pseudonyms to TotallyNotAlphaGeekReally to get my comments posted?

    • avatar16V says:

      I feel ya. I’ve lost half a dozen in the last 2 days, and upon re-submit I am greeted with the “it appears you’ve already said that” reply.

      They’ve never made it out of the spool…

      • avatarAlphaGeek says:

        I even tried modifying that last one and reposting, but the modified version also failed to post. Argh.

  4. avatarJustLeaveLawfulGunOwnersAlone says:

    I am ok with “despite”, I don’t need a “because” until there is actually enough independent research proofing a direct correlation. That more guns didn’t increase crimes is all I should need for a reasonable person to respect my choices.

    I don’t own guns to bring down the overall crime rate in my state, at most I own them to protect myself against crime. If that leads to a lower crime rate, fantastic but even if it does not, I don’t need those statistics to justify my firearms.

    that I want them and can afford them is enough reason to fill my safe.

    you should post about the study done on suicides where guns were banned and how it only changed the means, not the actual rate.

  5. avatarUSMCVeteran says:

    This is what irks me about the gun control industry / MSM, they are so politically myopic and agenda-driven that facts and logic are completly ignored. The end always justifies the means.

  6. avatarGreg Camp says:

    What’s even more embarrassing (or should be) to the gun control freaks is that among three regions–D.C., Maryland, and Virginia–Virginia has the best gun laws and the lowest homicide rate.

    But we mustn’t let facts get in the way of control.

    • avatarCarlosT says:

      Oh, well, it’s because Virginia’s “lax” gun laws are funneling guns into the other places.

      Why those guns don’t cause problems in Virginia, where they’re legal for regular people to own, is one of life’s great mysteries.

      • avatarAlphaGeek says:

        I’m willing to believe that both theories have credence.

        VA is safer because of liberal gun laws coupled with a culture of gun ownership among law-abiding citizens.

        Nearby states restrict the availability of firearms, which has two effects: lawful citizens go unarmed, and criminals are motivated to find the easiest path to gun possession. While theft tops the list of acquisition methods, trafficking from states like VA into restrictive states works just fine if you have the capital to fund the operation.

        Trafficking is also less directly risky than robbing a house or crashing a stolen SUV through a gun store’s front door.

        The problem is that the Brady crowd gets all head-explody when we present strong, credible arguments that eliminating restrictions on lawful citizens is the best way to drive down violent crime. I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to make any progress on that front.

        • avatarjwm says:

          We keep funding SAF to go to court and make it easier for the law abiding to do just that. Who cares if the Brady bunch get all head explody. We’re not going to win them over anyways. Beat them bloody in court and get rid of the illegal gun laws. It’s been working so far.

          Wanna see them get real head explody get a modern Miller case to challenge the NFA or get a federal judge to sign off on constitutional carry. The Bradies will need obamacare for all the strokes they’d have.

        • avatar16V says:

          You have no idea how much I yearn to have Miller actually ruled on by The Supremes…

  7. avatarBob says:

    “When it comes to infringing on Americans’ Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms, losing the arguments means never have to say you’re wrong.”

    Great sentence, RF! It encapsulates the thinking and motives of the gun-control advacates so well. I’m going to use it in the future.

  8. avatarJeff O. says:

    I am FULLY ticked off that my state scores a 2 on that stupid Brady scorecard. I want a 0!

    Or if possible a negative number…

    • avatarRokurota says:

      We probably get a 2 for being one of only three states that require a background check redundant with NICS.

  9. avatarDrVino says:

    My submitted comment about “because”, “despite” and coreltaion, causation and coincidence seems to have been lost……

    In either case, is this the kind of research that Obama wants to not be suppressed?….

    • avatarAlphaGeek says:

      My lost comment said something along the lines that more data and better studies are highly unlikely to benefit the disarmament crowd, so let’s find a way to support this. I do not think the results will be what the Feinstein/McCarthy axis expects. ;)

      • avatarSoccerchainsaw says:

        But don’t you know that often the results are in dirent correlation to who pays the bill? There was a study done on this funded by the Americans Who Don’t Trust Studies PAC….

  10. avatarJoel says:

    which state has the lowest Brady score?
    i’m going to use that data and keep that state in mind when I look for somewhere other than Cali to live.

    • avatarLockness says:

      Alaska (my home state), Arizona and Utah have the lowest scores with a whopping zero. Personally i’d like it if we could force concealed carry onto college campuses in AK so that we’d get a negative two.

  11. avatarPublius says:

    “Crime is decreasing despite all those people being locked up….”

    This is what James Taranto calls the Fox Butterfield syndrome, after a famous NY Times “reporter” who professes bewilderment at the “contradiction”.

  12. avatarRalph says:

    RF, you’re getting almost as good at deconstructing those idiots’ arguments as Bruce Krafft.

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