In Va., gun sales are up, crime is down

by Peter Galuszka, Washington Post  |  published on November 27, 2012

Virginians have been buying more firearms than ever, even though crime has been steadily falling. Why?

Last year, 420,829 firearms were bought through licensed gun dealers in the state. That’s a 73 percent increase over 2006. Leading the list were pistols (175,717), followed by rifles (135,495). According to the Richmond Times Dispatch, central Virginians packed more heat than anyone else, followed closely by Northern Virginians.

And yet, as more firearms are sold, the crime rate has continued to drop. From 2006 to 2011, the number violent crimes committed with handguns fell from 4,040 to 3,154, about 25 percent, the newspaper reported.

Is there a correlation between increased gun sales and decreasing crime?

Indeed, some believe that hardened criminals are less likely to threaten victims if they know there’s a chance they could end up looking down the barrel of a 9 mm. Glock, or perhaps something that fits more easily into a lady’s handbag, such as a Ruger LCP 380 Ultra Compact Pistol. And by some accounts, women as well as men are flocking to training courses and firing ranges operated by gun stores.

At first glance, “the data is pretty overwhelming,” Thomas R. Baker, a criminologist at Virginia Commonwealth University, told the Richmond newspaper.

When you take a longer view, however, this thinking starts to fall apart. According to FBI reports, violent crime has been on a fairly steady downward trend since the early 1990s – much earlier than 2006, when Virginians started buying guns like crazy. The Economist magazine says the violent crime rate is at its lowest in 40 years and that the murder rate is less than it was a half a century ago.

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