Crime Drops, But Virginians Pack More Heat

 By Peter Galuszka

Virginians have been buying more firearms than ever even though crime has been steadily falling. Why?

Last year, 420,829 firearms were bought through licensed gun dealers in Virginia. That’s a 73 percent increase from the sales in 2006. Leading the list were pistols (175,717) sold last year, followed by rifles (135,495). Central Virginians packed more heat than anyone else, followed closely by Northern Virginians, according to the Richmond Times Dispatch.

Now comes the hard. As more firearms are sold, the crime rate continues to fall. From 2006 to 2011, violent crime committed with handguns dropped from 4,040 to 3,154, about 25 percent, the newspaper reports.

Is there a correlation between heightened gun sales and decreasing crime?

Indeed, some believe that hardened criminals are less likely to threaten victims if they know there’s a chance they could be looking down the barrel of a 9 mm. Glock or something that fits more easily into a lady’s handbag, such as a Ruger LCP 380 Ultra Compact Pistol.  By some accounts, women, as well as men, are flocking to training courses and firing ranges operated by gun stores.

At first glance, “the data is pretty overwhelming,” Thomas R. Baker, a criminologist at Virginia Commonwealth University, told the Richmond newspaper.

When you take a longer view, however, the thinking tends to fall apart. According to FBI reports, violent crime has been on a fairly steady downward trend since the early 1990s – much earlier than 2006 when Virginians started buying guns like crazy. The Economist magazine says the violent crime rate is at its lowest in 40 years and the murder rate is less than it was a half a century ago.

It’s anyone’s guess why crime has continually dropped. Theories include demographic shifts in which younger, inner city men who tend to be involved in violent crime have become steadily fewer in number. Better community-based police work could be a cause. The cold-hearted even say more low-income babies are being aborted.

Gun proponents suggest that one reason for the gun fad among the law-abiding was a fear that President Barack Obama would force a severe crackdown on gun sales when he was elected in 2008. If so, it hasn’t happened yet. Some worry that the recession would bring about more crime but history shows that there was more violence in the Roaring 1920s than the Depression-racked 1930s. They also want to be ready if caught in rare yet highly publicized mass-shootings such as those at Virginia Tech and at a movie theater in Colorado.

In my view, Virginians are packing heat with gusto for the wrong reasons. They and their gun sellers are riding a wave of irrational fear that has been vigorously promoted by social conservative politicians in the 2010 and 2012 elections.

Besides this, linking the desire for personal and deadly firepower to the country’s first African-American president raises some rather ugly questions.

30 Responses to Crime Drops, But Virginians Pack More Heat

  1. I’d offer four perspectives:

    1. – technology. the ability of LE to track your credit card, your cell phone, your license plate, etc. the chances that you’d get away with anything is increasingly less likely.

    2. – the suicide rate now exceeds the murder rate, it even exceed the auto crash death rate.

    3. – MSNBC – prison life shows – anyone who watches how people live in prison would be a fool to then go do something that is likely to end up with them in prison.

    4. – If you do use a gun to kill another person – in all but the most extreme, clearly-defined cases where you are totally in the right, you will end up in the criminal justice meat-grinder and even though ultimately exonerated, it will come damn near to ruining your life.

    and.. the sad story is this – the youngest and dumbest, often who dropped out from school ..usually dealing in petty drugs and minor property crimes are increasingly the ones ended up in prison these days.

  2. I’ve been thinking about buying a gun. Of course, I’d have to learn to shoot it first. … And I wouldn’t want to keep it loaded, not with a kid in the house. … Come to think of it, it’s probably more trouble than it’s worth.

  3. guns are a bad choice for suicide also if you care about what your family sees afterwards….. just saying…

  4. Peter:

    Must you really hew the Democratic line and try to make every observation into an example of racism?

    You spend the entire post talking about the increase in Virginia gun sales since 2006. In your clearest comment, you say, ” … much earlier than 2006 when Virginians started buying guns like crazy.”.

    Then, you end the post with, “Besides this, linking the desire for personal and deadly firepower to the country’s first African-American president raises some rather ugly questions.”.

    You are entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts. If the surge in gun buying started long before Obama became a candidate for president then it’s a challenge to tie the the trend to his being president – even if that would support the broad based liberal hallucination of widespread anti-Obama racism.

    Are the gun owners so prescient that they knew in 2006 that Barack Obama would be elected president in Nov, 2008? If so, perhaps they are right about something bad on the horizon and I should go add to my arsenal.

    My bet is that Baby Boomers are driving gun sales. In 2006, the oldest Baby Boomer turned 60, the average Baby Boomer turned 51 and the youngest Baby Boomer turned 42. The kids were moving out of the house and the possibility of using your fists or feet to solve an attack seems less and less likely.

    Why not have a Sig in the nightstand or in a “fast open” gun safe?

  5. This is also an excellent Dillon’s Rule point. Last year, The Imperial Clown Show in Richmond passed a law that stripped the rights of a locality to demand fingerprints from a citizen who received a concealed carry permit. Now, let’s be clear – nothing required localities to demand fingerprints from concealed carry permit holders. However, localities which thought that to be a good idea could demand it. Now, localities are forbidden to demand fingerprints as a pre-requisite for concealed carry permits.

    Is this right?

  6. And, as part of the continuing series of “only in Virginia” episodes, the gun rights groups defeated the Castle Law proposal in the Virginia state legislature last year. Why? Because they felt Virginia common law was already so strongly in favor of people being able to blast away inside their homes that the proposed bill actually reduced the rights of gun owners by demanding that an “overt act” be committed to make the gun toting homeowner fearful.

    I believe that a “new and improved” Castle Law is back on the pre-filed list of bills this year.

  7. Finally, how does it happen that Virginia votes overwhelmingly for Obama and even more overwhelmingly for Tim Kaine but then allows the Imperial Clown Show in Richmond to enact the most conservative gun agenda in the country (or, at least, close to it).

    You can think that the Virginians are schizophrenic when it comes to politics – preferring extremely liberal national politicians and extremely conservative gun laws. Or, you can think that a combination of off year elections, a lack of transparency and poor reporting of Virginia politics by the MSM allows our state lawmakers to blaze their own political path in an ever more blue state.

    Any guesses as to which side of this question I see as the right answer?

  8. First let me say how proud I am with your comments. I was getting worried that BR was getting lip wristed.

    First, Jim Bacon, why get a gun? I thought you were a turqouise belt in Taekwondo.

    Don the Ripper. Why must I always toe the Democratic line? Huh? Is Bismark a herring?

    • I haven’t worn my black belt in nine years. My limbs are so stiff these days that I couldn’t kick my way out of wet paper bag.

      Guns don’t appeal to me but I’m reluctant to infringe upon the rights of others to own and wear them (as long as they haven’t been convicted of a crime, and aren’t certifiably crazy). If someone with a gun uses it to kill someone, we’ve got ample laws on the books to punish the crime. But I’m not dogmatic. I don’t see any legitimate reason for people to own heavy ordinance like machine guns.

  9. Is Johnny Horton a libertarian?

  10. You mean Johnny Horton, the rockabilly guy? Am I missing something?

  11. Mr. Galuszka, you asked “Is there a correlation between heightened gun sales and decreasing crime?” You then briefly examined the argument that increased gun sales = less crime.

    Why did you not also examine the gun rights position, that increased gun sales = more crime? That is the position which took a huge blow from this data.

  12. OK,
    Let’s ask a question. How many of you have actually been in a life or death situation where your having a firearm would have made a difference?

    I have been around shots in anger a few times when I was a foreign correspondent but my having a gun wouldn’t have made much difference because I would have been seriously outclassed by the much heavier firepower going off around me. I wasn’t the target, just a close-in spectator. And I was lucky.

    As for gun ownership. I am one. I got a rifle in 1964 and I haven’t shot it since 1972 or 1973. It probably still works.

  13. I have- and it made a difference-

  14. Peter:

    Given your penchant for a certain type of model, I thought you might like this. .454 with 300 grain shot being fired by “Christina”. The good news is that you can intentionally aim to miss if you are ever in an encounter with an Alaskan on your hip. The sound of this Ruger Redhawk Alaskan firing is enough to send half a zip code scrambling for cover!

    Closest I’ve been to a life or death situation with a weapon was wild boar (pig) hunting. The nasties have a penchant for charging you and they weigh hundreds of pounds with sharp tusks. One boar came out of the brush and the guy I was with shot it just in time. On a side note, he insisted on carrying an Alaskan as a side arm in case he “didn’t have time” to use his rifle.

    Most of the wild pigs are the offspring of accidentally released animals. They are invasive and do great damage. There are an estimated 3,000 wild pigs in Virginia and millions in Texas and Arkansas. They breed like minks and must be hunted or trapped before they overwhelm an area.

    • My experience arose from an unfriendly and uninvited fellow coming at me unexpectedly in my home at 3am. Then he saw the gun. That changed his mind and demeanor. He turned and ran.

      In two other situations outside, I dearly wished I was armed. That feeling of outnumbered helplessness is an awful one.

    • Hmmm. I see that, you, too have joined the anti-wild pig crusade. They’re nasty. Brutish. Breed like minks. They must be stopped before they take over. Where have I heard that before? … Let me try to remember. Oh, yes, HITLER!

  15. My experience had more to do with Soviet-made stuff — T-80s, AKs, BTRs, RPGs, etc. Handguns ineffective.

  16. Ineffective, yes, against organized and disciplined Legions!

  17. what can I say… oh… “War on HOGS”

  18. we’ve seen these “hogs” first hand on some of the rivers we paddle down south but I have to say.. I’m more afraid of the guys hunting them than I am of them!

    Give a yahoo a semi-automatic, large clip weapon and an ATV and a six-pack and you better not be anywhere near them thar hogs…

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