Hard Facts: More Guns but Less Crime

Crime and criminal violence tend to go up or down due to a variety of factors, many of them apparently not yet identified by criminologists and sociologists. Poverty, the economy, unemployment, and illegal drugs are frequently point[ed] to as major factors, but for the past 7 years, as the US has gone through one of the worst recessions in our nation’s history, [and] while we’ve seen high unemployment, unprecedented numbers of home foreclosures, and massive drug-related violence broiling in Mexico, violent crime in the US, including crime involving firearms, has been going down or holding steady.

While politicians debate and billionaires expend millions of dollars convincing people to expand restrictions and record-keeping on gun sales, the problems they’re arguing about and supposedly addressing with their restrictions have been mitigating. The media and paid “researchers” of the anti-rights crowd have successfully kept Americans’ attention focused on a few aberrations and away from the broader reality of declining crime.

Rather than examining the dramatic declines in criminal violence to determine what factors have driven these declines, the media and politicians have raised bugaboos like “assault weapons,” “high-capacity magazines,” and “universal background checks.” Debates regarding research on gun control have focused on methodology and fine detail, rather than big-picture results. Professor Gary Kleck’s research concluding that guns are used by citizens to stop crimes as many as 2.5 million times a year are dismissed with arguments about “survey bias,” while the broader implication – that Americans do use guns more frequently than reported – is ignored. Critics of Professor John Lott’s research indicating that crime goes down when gun carry licenses go up, have successfully managed to keep debate focused on the details and methodology of his research, while ignoring the indisputable fact that while firearms carry restrictions have been liberalized significantly across the country, violent crime has been going down.

Proponents of gun control have been highly successful at keeping American’s attention focused on a leaf or two in the huge forest of reality. They point to declining violent crime rates as proof that people who choose to carry guns for self-defense are paranoid, and in the next breath, raise alarms about the threats posed by aberrant deviants gaining access to firearms.

It’s high time the American people – and the politicians we hire to act in our interest – stop focusing on leaves or single trees, and step back to look at the whole forest.

Here are the numbers that really matter from the FBI’s recently released 2013 Uniform Crime Report.

1. Murder involving firearms has plummeted to a new “normal” that is 39% lower than it was in 1997.
2. Violent crime involving firearms has been steadily going down during that same period – by about 65% – and has yet to plateau.
3. Unintentional deaths involving firearms have been going down steadily since 1930, and are currently at an all-time low.
4. The number of guns in circulation, the number of gun owners, the number of households with guns in them, and the number of people licensed or otherwise able to lawfully carry firearms for personal defense in public, are all at all-time highs.

These are all clear, irrefutable facts. They are not nuanced by collection methods or skewed by someone’s personal bias. Some might claim that some of the numbers are over- or under-estimated or reported, or that points chosen for comparison or inclusion create some distortion of the total perception, but there can be no doubt that there are millions more guns in circulation today than at any time in our nation’s history, and the rate of gun ownership today is sharply higher than it was a few years or a few decades ago. Simultaneously, “gun murder,” “gun violence,” and unintentional “gun deaths” have not gone up, but have actually declined.

Are more guns in private hands driving crime and accident rates down? I don’t know. What I do know is that the growing number of guns in private hands is not driving crime and accident rates up. That is absolutely clear from this raw data, and anyone who suggests otherwise is prevaricating.

Crime and violence are complex issues; they have no simple solutions. Guns absolutely do make dangerous situations more dangerous. But the mere availability of guns – in the home or on the street – does not increase the likelihood of their use in criminal acts of violence or their abuse in stupid accidents. There are an estimated 300 million guns in circulation today in the hands of an estimated 90 million gun owners. In most states, any law-abiding citizen can legally strap one to his waist or throw one over her shoulder and go about their daily business. In a growing number of states it is legal to carry a loaded firearm concealed upon your person without any special license or permit; yet violent crime keeps going down.

If more guns really did result in more crime or more deadly crime or more deadly accidents, there should be data showing gun-related crime going through the roof due to the massive increase in guns.

They say that figures don’t lie, but liars do figure. The next time you see some “research” painting guns as a public health hazard, or making some outrageous comparison between “gun deaths” and automobile fatalities, remember that “gun murders,” “gun crime,” and unintentional “gun deaths” are all down dramatically, while guns and gun ownership are up, and realize that you are face to face with a liar who figures.

©2014 The Firearms Coalition, all rights reserved. Reprinting, posting, and distributing permitted with inclusion of this copyright statement. www.FirearmsCoalition.org.

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