Virginia Enjoys Rising Gun Ownership and Declining Crime

by J.D. Tuccille, Reason.com  |  published on November 28, 2012

The debate over the relationship between guns and crime is a long one. People ill-disposed toward things that go BANG! generally believe that allowing more of them into circulation inevitably raises violent crime rates. Others assume that criminals have access to guns no matter the legal environment, so that easing legal restrictions increases opportunities for self-defense and crime-deterrence. The evidence has generally favored the crime-deterrence argument, though not without caveats. Now, though, comes straightforward evidence, easily understood and digested, which demonstrates that rising gun ownership can co-exist with declining crime rates.

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 Times-Dispatch asked Professor Thomas R. Baker, a specialist in research methods and criminology at Virginia Commonwealth University, to look at the numbers, and his conclusion is short and pithy:

“While there is a wealth of academic literature attempting to demonstrate the relationship between guns and crime, a very simple and intuitive demonstration of the numbers seems to point away from the premise that more guns leads to more crime, at least in Virginia.”

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