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Monday, November 26, 2012

In Virginia It's More Guns and Less Gun Crime

That's what we learned from this Richmond Times Dispatch story on the rise in gun sales in Virginia. Part of a two day series on gun sales in Virginia, one story looked as five years of data on gun sales and gun related crime.  Here is what they found:
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.
As you can see from the graphic above, the Central Region, which includes the Richmond Metro area, lead the sales state wide.  The data also shows that a popular retailer located in that region, Green Top Sporting Goods, led sales statewide for the period.  Green Top recently relocated in the vacated Gander Mountain store located just up the highway from Green Top's original location.

While we probably cannot attribute all of the drop in crime to the increase in gun sales, we can at least say that more guns in the hands of the public certainly did not cause an crime spree.   In fact, that is exactly what Virginia Commonwealth University Professor Thomas R. Baker, who did an analysis of the data for the RTD, said:
"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," said Baker, who specializes in research methods and criminology theory and has an interest in gun issues.
Baker studied under Florida State University professors Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz, whose nationally recognized research on guns and homicides in the District of Columbia was sited in the Heller case.

According to the RTD, the data requested strengthen the premise that more gun sales are not leading to an increase in crime. Using what Baker calls the "lag model," the data show that an increase in gun purchases for one year usually is followed by a decrease in crime the next year.  That data shows that the estimated number of gun purchases, based on requested background checks, rose from 243,251 in 2006 to a record-breaking 420,829 sales in 2011, according to FFL transaction data compiled by state police through background checks. Over that same period, the total number of violent crimes in Virginia dropped from 23,431 offenses in 2006 to 18,196 in 2011.

Virginia most noted gun control activist does not find the data compelling. Andrew Goddard, whose son was wounded during the Virginia Tech massacre five years ago, did not dispute the numbers but did question their significance:
"It's quite possible that you can sell a whole lot more guns and crime is still going down," Goddard said. "But is the crime going down because more people are buying guns, or is the crime going down because the crime is going down?"
But the whole premise of the gun control argument is that the reason we have gun-related crime is because we have so many guns.  Clearly, with the numbers presented, one cannot say that is true, at least in Virginia.

But that was only one part of the story.  The RTD started out by focusing on the sales vs. crime side but on Sunday, they went to the why have sales jumped.  Most of the folks the RTD spoke with agreed it was a mix of several reasons driving the increased sales.  In addition to politics, personal protection as well as the repeal of handgun rationing driving sales.  And it should come as no surprise that with the increase in firearm sales, and increase in demand for training has also followed, many of the folks seeking training being women.  Robert Marcus, owner of Bob's Gun Shop in Norfolk said:
“We are seeing far more women now — empowering themselves I guess is the word for it.”
Ed Coleman, General Manager of Colonial Shooting Academy in Henrico, a VSSA advertiser, told the RTD it has been selling out its eight-hour women-only basic pistol instruction classes for the past three months.
“The fastest-growing segment of the gun-owning population is women,” Coleman said. “The numbers of women that are buying firearms for the first time are far exceeding men.”
The RTD did a great job of doing their homework on this article.  This is the first series that focused on Virginia in the large number of stories on the nation's jump in gun sales.  It it worth the time to read all three articles linked above.

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