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Monday, August 5, 2013

Virginia Gun Sales Increase 100 Percent in Seven Years, Crime Decreases

Yesterday, Fox News picked up this Richmond Times Dispatch article (RTD) that followed up on its article from last year that detailed research by Thomas R. Baker, an assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs.  The RTD asked Professor Baker to look at six years of gun sales and crime data.  What he found was while Virginia's firearm sales had increased by over 70%, crime had decreased by 23%.  In yesterday's article, Baker was able to get the final sales numbers for 2012, and found that since 2006, Virginia's gun sales had increased a whopping 101% while Virginia's crime rate had decreased 28%.

The newspaper recently obtained updated firearm transaction figures and gun crime data for 2012 to compare them with the years originally reviewed by Baker. The new figures show a continuation of a pattern of increased gun sales not contributing to an increase in gun-related crime.
But Baker cautioned against drawing any conclusions that more guns in the hands of Virginians are causing a corresponding drop in gun crime, as some academics and gun-rights supporters have argued.
“To substantiate (that) argument, you would need to eliminate a number of other factors that could potentially explain away the relationship of more guns, less crime in Virginia,” Baker said. “Only if the relationship remained after controlling for additional factors could a researcher be more comfortable making the claim that more guns lead to less crime. But what the data does show is that the ‘more guns, less crime argument’ is certainly possible.”
But he Baker did have this to say:
“It’s a quite interesting trend given the current rhetoric about strengthening gun laws and the presumed effect it would have on violent crimes,” Baker added. “While you can’t conclude from this that tougher laws wouldn’t reduce crime even more, it really makes you question if making it harder for law-abiding people to buy a gun would have any effect on crime.”
This news hit just two days after  New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg and a New York Daily News article started a spitting match with Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell over Bloomberg's claim that most of the firearms recovered in crimes in his city come from out of state, including Virginia.
Bloomberg railed that 90% of all guns used in city crimes in 2011 came from other states — and that more of them came from Virginia than anywhere else, including the weapon that killed NYPD officer Peter Figoski in December of that year.
McDonnell's spokesperson's response was too cute by half  responding that Virginia’s murder and robbery (rates) are significantly lower than New York City’s then adding:
“We wish the mayor well as he attempts to address these issues within his home state and we hope he won’t hesitate to call on us if our law enforcement agencies can be of assistance in ensuring public safety in New York City,”
This just begged for the Daily News to go fact checking then piled on by contacting criminologists to explain why the comparison between a city and a state are not correct for statistical purposes.

Maybe the Governor's office should have contacted Professor Baker for a response.

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