Virginia Enjoys Rising Gun Ownership and Declining Crime

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.

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

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."

Of course, gun-control advocates have already raised the predictable, "but crime was going down anyway and would have gone down more without all those guns" objection. But that seems like weak tea in the face of soaring firearms ownership and plummeting crime.

Note that the Virginia data doesn't indicate a causal relationship — that is, you can't conclude, based on the available data, that the increase in guns is deterring crime. It might well be, and I personally take that as a given, but the data here isn't sufficient to support that conclusion. What's clear, though, is that guns can sell like cold beer on a hot day at the same time that violent crime shows every sign of becoming un-trendy. The correlation maintains even if you remove long guns from the scenario and look only at handguns, which are the firearms of choice for gun-using criminals.

Handgun purchases in Virginia increased 112 percent from 2006 to 2011, but violent crimes committed with handguns fell by nearly 22 percent. When adjusted for population increases, handgun purchases rose a little more than 100 percent, but violent crimes committed with handguns dropped 26 percent, according to Baker's analysis.

There's been little movement toward imposing new firearm restrictions in recent years, especially post-Heller. But amok shootings like the one in Aurora, Colorado, often inspire the usual suspects to call for "sensible gun control."  The Times-Dispatch evidence makes it clear that there's nothing "sensible" about threatening people with arrest and prison for violating gun restrictions when simple gun ownership has no obvious relationship to crime.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Needs better alt-text...like "This is my fetish" or "NO FOLK VIRGINA! (Said in Italian accent)" or ...suggestions?

  • sarcasmic||

    "Know where else I'm double jointed?"

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    "A girl with something long, hard and black in her hand"

  • ||

    "These earrings are not tacky..."

  • GILMORE||

    "And does *this* make me look fat?"

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    "The plot of every other Country music song."

  • iggy||

    "She could raise my gun ownership."

  • fried wylie||

    Alt-alt-text: "She Bangs, She Bangs."

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    C'mon Tuccille...you're letting us in the peanut gallery show you up! You're an author...next time don't forget the witty alt-text.

  • Restoras||

    I like the alt-txt - it implies to me that JD knows how to handle a gun. I do like Gilmore's suggestion, however...

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Well, he should have armed himself, if he wants his crime rates to drop.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Virginia is also getting Bluer every year - unless Democrats lose their mind and try to impose a gun ban (chance is nil).

  • ||

    Yeah, the proximity to DC is resulting in an influx of statists. Except for DC and Richmond, the rest of the state is a sea of red:

    http://www.politico.com/2012-e.....se/2012/VA

  • ||

    That should read "the suburbs near DC".

  • deified||

    I see you have not been to Charlottesville.

  • Jgalt1975||

    What's wrong with that poor woman's arm?!

  • Sam Grove||

    I've frequently noticed that females can bend their arms a bit past straight.

  • ||

    Of course, gun-control advocates have already raised the predictable, "but crime was going down anyway and would have gone down more without all those guns" objection.

    How does the drop in Virginia's crime rate compare to other state with flat or declining gun sales and tough restrictions on firearms? Are those other states experiencing a drop of about the same magnitude as Virginia's, a slower decline in the rates (or even a rise), or even steeper drops?

    Making assertions without looking at relevant facts is just making meaningless noise.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    More importantly, are states without Phoenix Jones experiencing a drop in crime about the same magnitude as Washington?

  • R C Dean||

    "but crime unemployment was going down anyway and would have gone down more without all those guns" objection stimulus spending, green energy boondoggles, and all the rest.

    Funny how the exact same argument is a laydown win, and ridiculous speculation, depending . . . .

  • Restoras||

    Is that a Beretta? Anyone?

  • Scotticus Finch||

    I think it's just a regular plastic headband. It caught my eye too though!

  • Steve G||

    yes

  • NeonCat||

    Could be a Taurus, but the design is a Beretta 92.

  • waaminn||

    Man I love girls with guns! How cool is that!

    www.Anon-Goes.tk

  • LTC(ret) John||

    OK< that was spot on - the algorithm is getting better, anonybot.

  • iggy||

    Yesterday he posted 'Naked kids? Pics or it didn't happen!' on the article about child clothing regulations.

    I think his algorithm might already be a little too specific.

  • 907extreme||

    Here's a humorous take on the issue:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51Yi90a5Bxo

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement