"More guns = more crime" officially debunked

Advocates of gun control talk of the concept of crime increasing as more people have guns as if it’s a graven-in-stone axiom. Evidence has been presented in many localities that suggest otherwise and now the FBI’s nationwide crime report for the 1st half of 2009 shows definitively that this concept is untrue. From the NRA-ILA:

Last week, the FBI issued its preliminary 2009 crime report, showing that the number of murders in the first half of 2009 decreased 10 percent compared to the first half of 2008. If the trend holds for the remainder of 2009, it will be the single greatest one-year decrease in the number of murders since at least 1960, the earliest year for which national data are available through the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Also, the per capita murder rate for 2009 will be 51 percent lower than the all-time high recorded in 1991, and it will be the lowest rate since 1963—a 46-year low. Final figures for 2009 will be released by the FBI next year.

There can be reasoned debate about the natures of the causes and effects listed in the report but the numbers are clear on this: gun ownership went way up in the 1st half of 2009 and crime went way down. “More guns means more crime” is a fallacy, period.

I contend that more guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens means criminals face a much higher risk-to-reward ratio when deciding to commit crimes against their neighbors and it is that change in the calculus that’s driving criminal behavior downward. That’s an educated guess and it accounts for the effects but there’s no denying that increased guns do not equate to increased crime. I look forward to seeing the report for the remainder of 2009 when it comes out.

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2 comments

  1. I’m sorry, but your logic is flawed here, and the statistics you cite do not support your statement.

    While on the surface, the reduction in the murder rate concurrent with an increase in gun ownership (for which you did not cite any supporting report) might lead one to the conclusion that the statement “more guns equals more crime” is false, this position cannot be held based on such a flimsy premise.

    For example, the only crime statistic listed here is murder. Where is the rest of the gun-related crimes? And even if we were to accept your statement that gun ownership is “way up”, the question must be asked if that increase was the result of new guns for existing owners, or if there were new owners. The former wouldn’t be considered relevant, while the latter might be, depending on other variables.

    Insofar as your position that more guns is a better deterrent to crime, there is little evidence of that. If that were the case, then crime rates in the US, where overall gun ownership is high by comparison to many other countries (members of the EU, for example) would be lower. But they are not. Sticking just to the murder rate, for example, the rate for the US in 2008 was 5.4/100K, the same rate as for the EU in the same time period. Moreover, it is just as likely that, if the gun-toting criminal came to the understanding that his potential victims were as likely to have a gun as not, there would be more “shoot first and mug the corpse” stories in the press. But that idea has no more support than the one you advance.

    An old saying is “an armed society is a polite society”, and there is some truth to that statement… but only if the weapons used do not give the assailant the ability to instantly kill the opponent. Guns changed the equation by allowing people who would not stand a chance in a fight to immediately neutralize a target. “Politeness” is no longer required. Just the advantage of a split-second of surprise.

  2. “Flimsy premise?” You’re arguing that the fact – reported by the agency responsible for compiling the data – that crime rates went down while gun ownership went up does not show that the argument to the contrary is false on its face and you’re saying my statements are based on a flimsy premise? Face the fact: “more guns means more crime” would only be true if the crime rate went up as gun ownership went up. Didn’t happen. Statement’s false.

    The report most certainly goes into violent crime of all sorts, a fact that is immediately obvious to anyone who goes and looks at the report. The quote I listed is clearly a brief excerpt of very short analysis. Both my quote and the analysis to which I linked provide a link to the FBI site containing the actual report. Did you go and look at it? If you had, you’d see the other crime types you’re concerned with.

    Gun ownership increases have been reported by both government agencies and by multiple mass media outlets including such luminaries as the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, and – yes – Fox News. You don’t have to “accept [my] statement” on the matter, look it up yourself. If you do, you’ll find that the increases are both in existing gun owners and new owners as evidenced by NICS check rates and in the rates of new registration applications for those states that require them. Calling this into question only shows you haven’t even looked to see if your question’s already been answered. While you didn’t provide any linkage for your murder rate US vs EU, I assume you looked it up so you are clearly capable.

    BTW, I have no reason to doubt your statistic but, following your precedent, I have to explicitly state that I’m “accepting your statement.”

    I don’t, however, accept your characterization of guns as neutralizing the notion of “armed society is polite society.” The quote was written by Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988), a man whose entire life was lived after the wide deployment of firearms technology. It was within the context of a society whose principal armament is guns. The concept speaks to people taking greater care to avoid giving sufficient offense or provocation for another to draw his weapon, not in being able to survive attacks by it. Politeness is absolutely required – it is, in fact, key. If any member of society is potentially as dangerous as any other, then a uniform level of politeness is called for, not merely respect to people with big arms and big swords.

    All of which is beside the point in a lawful society such as ours. Law-abiding citizens carry weapons for defense, not to respond to a casual slur or getting cut off in a parking lot. They are no more dangerous to people who do not threaten them then they would be unarmed. That’s why they’re dangerous to the criminals who would prey on them and not to the average joe walking down the street.

    Either way, the data stands: there are more guns in the hands of more owners out there and the crime rates for the period marked went down. More guns does not mean more crime.

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