“Americans who have been recent crime victims report higher rates of gun ownership than those who have not been victims,” the pollsters at Gallup report. “Thirty-three percent of U.S. adults who have been recent victims of assault, theft or property crimes own a gun, compared with 28% of those who have not been victims — a statistically significant difference.” Or is it?
Although it is not possible to know from the survey questions whether the crime prompted the individual to buy a gun or if the person owned a gun before the crime occurred, the modest yet significant relationship between recent crime victimization and gun ownership is clear.
In other words, the Gallup poll doesn’t tell us squat. While we can guess that being victimized leads people to tool-up, it could also be true that being a gun owner makes a person a more likely target for criminals. For reasons we could only wonder about — because Gallup failed to ask any of the pertinent questions. A fact they admit, again, in their conclusion.
Although the analysis demonstrates a statistically significant relationship between crime victimization and gun ownership, it cannot answer why the relationship exists. An obvious explanation is some of those who have been a crime victim purchase a gun as a reaction to that event. The Gallup data do not explore when the gun purchase was made in relation to when the crime occurred, so it is not possible to know to what extent this explains the relationship.
So what, exactly, was the point of this exercise? Hell if I know.
U.S. gun policy has come under increased scrutiny in recent decades, driven partly by mass shootings but also by the high rate of gun-related homicides. For crime victims, the threat of victimization is no longer a possibility but a reality. Crime victims’ desire to protect themselves may explain why many gun owners do not favor stricter gun laws, and why gun owners as well as nonowners are reluctant to back outright bans on guns.
People who’ve been the victims of crime know that they could be a victim of a crime? Who knew? Other than everybody. Note to Gallup: must try harder.