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In its efforts to reframe the “debate” over civilian disarmament, the NRA-ILA’s gone a little math crazy. Make the jump for a statistical analysis arguing—again, still—that “more guns = less crime.” For those of you who’d rather wonder why Tiger Woods would cheat on Elin Nordgren (and whether Woods should come out for golf club control), I’ll say this about that: the firearm homicide rate decline is even more staggering when you consider that hundreds of thousands of armed Americans are engaged in the illegal drug trade. If you pulled them out of the picture, as the police do in pro-gun control enclaves, you’ll understand why most Americans didn’t give a rat’s ass about “gun violence” until a madman murdered 20 white school kids in a suburban enclave. Just sayin’ . . .

The nation’s total violent crime rate hit an all-time high in 1991. Thereafter, it declined 18 of the next 20 years, 49 percent overall, to a 41-year low in 2011. That included a 52 percent decrease in the nation’s murder rate, to a 48-year low, nearly the lowest point in U.S. history. The FBI has preliminarily reported that in the first half of 2012, the murder rate dropped another 2.7 percent.

Concurrently, gun ownership2 and the number of privately owned guns rose to all-time highs, the number of privately owned firearms in the U.S. rising by over 120 million, including about 55 million handguns, about 80 percent of which were semi-automatic.3  The 120 million new firearms included over 3.5 million AR-15 semi-automatic rifles and tens of millions of other firearms that gun control supporters call “assault weapons,”4 along with countless tens of millions of ammunition magazines that hold 11 or more rounds, which gun control supporters think are too “large.”5 In the three months following President Barack Obama’s reelection and his announcement that gun control would be a “central issue” of his final term of office,6 the number of firearm-related background checks conducted through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System rose 53 percent, as compared to the same November-January period a year earlier.7

The trends stand in stark contrast to what gun control supporters have predicted over the years. Handguns are, of course, the type of firearm that gun control have always most wanted to be banned.8  In the 1970s, the Brady Campaign (then called National Council to Control Handguns) predicted: “There are now 40 million handguns owned by private individuals in the United States—about one gun for every American family. At the present rate of proliferation, the number could build to 100 million by the year 2000 (which isn’t as far off as you think). The consequences can be terrible to imagine—unless something is done.9
In 1979, when Brady Campaign was known as Handgun Control, Inc., it updated its prediction, saying, “Right now over 50 million HANDGUNS flood the houses and streets of our nation. . . . HANDGUN production and sales are out of control. . . . If we continue at this pace, we will have equipped ourselves with more than 100 million HANDGUNS by the turn of the century. One hundred million HANDGUNS. Will we be safer then?”10 As the crime trends discussed indicate, the answer to the group’s question appears to be “yes.”
In the late 1980s, realizing they had failed to get handguns banned, gun control supporters switched their gun-banning energies to semi-automatic rifles and other firearms they call “assault weapons,” using much the same rhetoric against those firearms as they had used previously against handguns.11

Less Gun Control: Over the last quarter-century, many federal, state and local gun control laws have been eliminated or made less restrictive. The federal “assault weapon” ban, upon which gun control supporters claimed public safety hinged, expired in 2004 and the murder rate has since dropped 10 percent. The federal handgun waiting period, for years the centerpiece of gun control supporters’ agenda, expired in 1998, in favor of the NRA-supported national Instant Check. Accordingly, some states have eliminated obsolete waiting periods and purchase permit requirements. There are now 41 Right-to-Carry states, an all-time high, up from 10 in 1987. All states have hunter protection laws, 48 have range protection laws, 48 prohibit local gun laws more restrictive than state law, 44 protect the right to arms in their constitutions, 33 have “castle doctrine” laws protecting the right to use guns in self-defense, and Congress and 33 states prohibit frivolous lawsuits against the firearm industry. Studies for Congress, the Congressional Research Service, the Library of Congress, the National Institutes of Justice, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found no evidence that gun control reduces crime.12 The FBI doesn’t list gun control as one of the many factors that determine the type and level of crime from place to place.13

1. For years 1991-2010, see the FBI Uniform Crime Reports Section Data Tool. For 2011 and the first half of 2012, see FBI, Crime in the United States 2011 and preliminary 2012 reports, available on the FBI’s Crime Statistics webpage. Note that the FBI reported a 1.7 percent decrease in the number of murders in the first half of 2012, as compared to the same period on 2011, implying a 2.7 percent increase in the murder per capita rate, given the approximately one percent increase in the population in the intervening year. For information on earlier murder rates, see Claude Fischer, “A crime puzzle,” The Public Intellectual, May 2, 2011.
2. Along with a rise n the U.S. population of roughly one percent annually, 47 percent of households reported gun ownership in 2011, the highest since 1993, Gallup, “Self-Reported Gun Ownership in U.S. is Highest Since 1993.

3. See BATFE, “Firearms Commerce in the United States: Annual Statistical Update 2012. One can estimate the number of manufactured and imported guns beyond 2010 by using the numbers of firearm-related background checks conducted through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), discussed above.
4. On January 24, 2013, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced Senate Bill 150, proposing to ban all detachable-magazine semi-automatic rifles and all semi-automatic shotguns, based upon their having a “characteristic that can function as a grip.”
5. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) estimates that there were 50 million such magazines imported while the federal “assault weapon” and “large” magazine ban was imposed, between 1994-2004. (Schumer press release, “Schumer Moves to Renew Federal Ban on Assault Weapons,” May 8, 2003.)
6. Michael D. Shear, “Obama Vows Fast Action ion New Push for Gun Control,” New York Times, Dec. 19, 2012
8. In 1975, the National Council to Control Handguns (renamed Handgun Control, Inc., or HCI, in 1979 and now called the Brady Campaign) called for “a ban on the manufacture, sale, and importation of all handguns and handgun ammunition.” (Nelson T. “Pete” Shields, People Weekly, Oct. 20, 1975.) The group said “Our battle is against handguns,” which it called “a national plague.” (“There is now a nationwide, full-time, professional organization to battle the gun lobby” pamphlet, circa 1975.) In 1976, the group’s chairman, Nelson T. “Pete” Shields, said, “The first problem is to slow down the increasing number of handguns being produced and sold in this country. The second problem is to get handguns registered. And the final problem is to make the possession of all handguns and all handgun ammunition—except for the military, policemen, licensed security guards, licensed sporting clubs, and licensed gun collectors—totally illegal.” (Richard Harris, “A Reporter At Large: Handguns,” The New Yorker, July 26, 1976.)  The group called handguns “a national plague” and said “our battle is against handguns.”  (National Council to Control Handguns, “There is now a nationwide, full-time, professional organization to battle the gun lobby” pamphlet, circa 1975.) A few years later, the National Coalition to Ban Handguns said “the primary function of a handgun is to kill a human being. . . . It is the concealable handgun that threatens and intimidates the citizens of this country.” (Pamphlet, “20 Questions and Answers,” circa 1981.) Then-San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein (later, U.S. Senate sponsor of the federal “assault weapon” ban of 1994-2004), said she was “deeply committed” to her proposal to ban the private possession of handguns in the city, even though she had carried a handgun for protection. (Ivan Sharpe, “People With Guns,” San Francisco Examiner, March 28, 1982.) In 1982, Handgun Control filed a brief in Quilici v. Morton Grove, in support of the Illinois town’s handgun ban. In 2008, Brady Campaign filed a brief to the Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller, in support of Washington, D.C.’s handgun ban.
9. NCCH, “There is now a nationwide, full-time, professional organization to battle the gun lobby!” pamphlet, no date, but circa 1975.
10. HCI pamphlet, “By this time tomorrow, 24 Americans will be murdered,” circa 1979 or 1980.
11. See, “history” section.
12. Jeffrey A. Roth, Christopher S. Koper, “Impact Evaluation of the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act of 1994, Urban Institute, March 13, 1997; Reedy and Koper, “Impact of handgun types of gun assault outcomes: a comparison of gun assaults involving semiautomatic pistols and revolvers,” Injury Prevention, Sept. 2003; Christopher S. Koper, “An Updated Assessment of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban: Impacts on Gun Markets and Gun Violence, 1994-2003,” Report to the National Institute of Justice, June 2004; Wm. J. Krouse, Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, “Semiautomatic Assault Weapons Ban,” 12/16/04; Library of Congress, “Firearms Regulations in Various Foreign Countries,” 5/98, LL98-3, 97-2010; Task Force on Community Preventive Service,  “First Reports Evaluating the Effectiveness of Strategies for Preventing Violence: Firearms Laws,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 10/03/03; Nat’l. Research Council, “Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review,” Nat’l. Academies Press, 2005.
13. FBI, “Crime in the United States 2011,” Variables Affecting Crime.

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the “lobbying” arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Visit:


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    • I take Biden’s rhetoric and raise it with what about all the times a gun is used to save a life or serious bodily harm.

        • Sarah McKinley the 18-year old widow in OK, with a young son, used a double-barrelled shotgun to kill a home invader armed with an 11-inch knife, in early 2012. You might have seen it on the Internet.

  1. I actually would like to see 2 more statistics on this graph: % of households with at least 1 firearm, and the overall violent crime rate. It may not make the graph quite as dramatic, but I’m a cold hard facts kinda guy.

    • I think the problem there is that most people no longer declare that they own a firearm to a pollster; I know I probably wouldn’t.

      • When I could buy guns on line I always had them shipped to an FFl that was 1 1/2 hours by car away from where I live. When I discard old issues if shotgun news, or any mail with a gun or a2 on it, I shred them first. The last thing I want known in my ‘hood is Me=guns.

  2. The book Freakonomics attributes the massive decline in the crime and murder rate in 1993 after its steady rise to the abortions finally catching up to the average prime crime committing age (about 30 year olds if I remember correctly.) it theorizes that most of the really bad crime comitters are from lower socio economic backgrounds and areas where the mother used to have the option of abortion because they where unable to care for and raise a child. So the kid grows up around crime and becomes a criminal. So the drop reflects the age of when Roe v. Wade rulling happened.

    • Just a side note to explain the drop because the rate of firearms ownership is a steady growth on the graph, while the homicide rate is indeed inversed but not to the exact rate of firearms.

    • Probably has more to do with the largest age subgroup the US has experienced called the baby boomers (born 1947-1964) having reached the age of prime crime activity in the 1960’s to 1970’s (15-24 yrs old) leveled out into the 1980’s (25-34 yrs old) and beginning of the 1990’s where the natural trend for reduction in violence occurs due to death, incarecration and eventually to dang old to commit a crime, and amazingly it correlates to the trend in violent crime reduction in the US or where ever the babyboomers occurred.

        • My pop was best friends with the local sheriff & superior court judge, so to say I had to RESTRAIN my activities was an understatement cause they wouldnt arrest me, they would do worse, they would take me straight home to pop!

          Only took one lesson to figure out what the rules were!

          Couldnt sit down for a week darn near!

          • ROFLMAO!!! My grandfather(RIP Papa) was the county judge here and Every city, county and most state police knew him and by association me. My parents had a few late night calls from the local LEO’s about drag racing or having alcohol in the car and underage(never drank and drive though), and other minor discretions like fights and skipping school!!!
            Dad and Mom both worked nights so got out late but in time to catch most of the fun you know??
            Still have lifelong callouses on my butt!! Papa’s razor strap hurt you know!!!

  3. If the Left thinks that something can be done about tens of millions of gun owners, then they’re sending the signal that something (other than amnesty) can be done about 10 million Mexicans who are in this country illegal.

    While immigration hard-liners may relish the thought, the real-world implications — of both gun-owner control and trying to forcibly deport 10 million people — scares the crap out of me.

  4. “If you pulled them out of the picture… you’ll understand why most Americans didn’t give a rat’s ass about ‘gun violence’ until a madman murdered 20 white school kids in a suburban enclave.”

    If you back out drug-crime related shootings (and suicides, but this post is about homicides) then the statistical occurrence of gun deaths drops to the point that cars, bathrooms and stairs are seen clearly as the death tools that they really are. Of course “if” more people understood statistics we’d be reading more gear reviews on TTAG and I wouldn’t be buying ammo on for twice what I paid last year.

    In the face of statistical rarity the facts don’t withstand scrutiny, hence the need for emotion. It also explains why every news source has had gun-related headlines several times a day since December 14. The anti-Constitutionalists have to create the appearance of blood in the streets.

    Hard to believe 2012 was still “the good old days”. Even worse that maybe we’ll think the same about 2013.

  5. (also at )

    Richard Wilkinson: How Economic Inequality Harms Societies

    uploaded on Oct 24, 2011

    We feel instinctively that societies with huge income gaps are somehow going wrong.

    Richard Wilkinson charts the hard data on economic inequality, and shows what gets worse when rich and poor are too far apart: real effects on health, lifespan, even such basic values as trust.

    Watch the segment from 7:18 to 7:35. There is an undeniable correlation between income inequality and homicide rates, in every U.S. state and Canadian province.

    “This is violence. These red dots are American states, and the blue triangles are Canadian provinces. But look at the scale of the differences. It goes from 15 homicides per million up to 150. This is the proportion of the population in prison. There’s a about a tenfold difference there, log scale up the side. But it goes from about 40 to 400 people in prison. That relationship is not mainly driven by more crime. In some places, that’s part of it. But most of it is about more punitive sentencing, harsher sentencing. And the more unequal societies are more likely also to retain the death penalty.”

    Unfortunately, the Right thinks that income inequality is something we need more of, while the Left only pays lip-service to equality, but doesn’t want to actually do something about it because it would hinder their gun-control agenda.

    It is ironic that the same people who were praising “Occupy Wall Street” at the end of 2011, and framed the discussion in terms of “the 1%” and “the 99%”, are willing dupes in a campaign orchestrated by the 10th richest man in America. Bloomberg is not just a 1%er, he’s at the very top of the 1%.

    • I hope you enjoy getting paid in scrip, because you’re going to need it to purchase essential goods at the company store.

    • “There is an undeniable correlation between income inequality and homicide rates, in every U.S. state and Canadian province.”

      Even an “undeniable” correlation is not proof of a causal relationship. Often, these kinds of correlations just mask a more fundamental relationship. Isn’t it possible and even likely that the same dysfunctional cultural traits that cause poverty (improvidence, impulsivity, desire for immediate gratification, laziness, ignorance and promiscuity) also predispose certain populations to violent and anti-social behavior? Your implication that rich people cause poverty is based on foolish economic notions. I detest Bloomberg as much as anyone but his wealth didn’t come at the expense of poor people, nor is it causing violent crime. His political agenda on the other hand is causing all kinds of problems.

      • > Even an “undeniable” correlation is not
        > proof of a causal relationship.

        I am well aware of the differnence between causation and correlation, as is Wilkinson. Watch the whole video.

        That being said, it’s odd that we have no trouble accepting that a correlation of “more guns / less crime” or “less guns / more crime” is proof of a causative relationship.

        • So by income redistribution violence will be reduced, ROTFLMFOA, ROTFLMFAO, ROTFLMFAO, ROTFLMFAO, ROTFLMFAO, ROTFLMFAO, ROTFLMFAO, ROTFLMFAO, ROTFLMFAO……..

      • “Isn’t it possible and even likely that the same dysfunctional cultural traits that cause poverty (improvidence, impulsivity, desire for immediate gratification, laziness, ignorance and promiscuity) also predispose certain populations to violent and anti-social behavior?”

        As the segment points out, the relationship between prison populations and society is not primarily driven by crime rates, but by sentencing policies. Foremost, prison populations do not consist primarily of violent offenders. While I certainly don’t support the argument that rich people cause poverty (though I don’t think that is the argument anonymous presented) – the argument that cultural traits cause poverty and predispose populations to violent anti-social behavior – aka sub-cultural theory – is not well supported relative to other models of crime and violent crime.

  6. While anti’s tend to stare at the deaths per 100K, that number is misleading, because few nations have but one cultural milieu. If 2K of the 100,000 adopt a gang culture of violence, and if the nation starts with a 2 per 100K murder rate, the national statistic can be driven, by the small 2K group, to 4 or 5 per 100K on a continuing bases. That is, as it happens, what happens. Guns-in-storage per 100K has nothing to do with crime. Guns in criminal hands or hoodies might.

    • Mostly gang violence associated with the war between the Crips and the Bloods over drugs and territory, and the introduction of South American gangs moving north into America.

  7. I’d have been interested in seeing gun ownership rates plotted on that chart, rather than the number of guns in circulation. It’s not like the guy with ten guns has much of a self-defense advantage over the man with one gun.

    • Yes, charting the rate of ownership would be more helpful; one rarely carries more than one firearm ready to use. But what I’d like to see is a graph of the actual number of people who own firearms. Why? Because over and over antis use the NYT percentage of households with guns figures to claim that firearms ownership is decreasing, i.e. that fewer and fewer people own firearms. But the NYT figures don’t even address that, and I’ve not been able to find any solid figures on the matter — percentages seem to be the thing now, even for people with no clue what they actually mean.

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