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More Guns, Less Crime Again

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Gun Ownership Rises to All-Time High,
Violent Crime Falls to 35-Year Low

Coinciding with a surge in gun purchases that began shortly before the 2008 elections, violent crime decreased six percent between 2008 and 2009, including an eight percent decrease in murder and a nine percent decrease in robbery.1 Since 1991, when violent crime peaked, it has decreased 43 percent to a 35-year low. Murder has fallen 49 percent to a 45-year low.2  At the same time, the number of guns that Americans own has risen by about 90 million. Predictions by gun control supporters, that increasing the number of guns, particularly handguns and so-called “assault weapons,” would cause crime to increase, have been proven profoundly lacking in clairvoyance.4

Crimes per 100,000 population

Total Violent Crime

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aggravated Assault

Year

Murder

Rape

Robbery

1991

758.1

9.8

42.3

272.7

433.3

2008

457.5

5.4

29.7

145.7

276.7

2009

429.4

5.0

28.7

133.0

262.8

Trend, 2008-2009

-6%

-8%

-4%

-9%

-5%

Trend, 1991-2009

-43%

-49%

-32%

-51%

-39%

 

 







 

 

 

            More Guns: There are well over 250 million privately-owned firearms in the U.S., including nearly 100 million handguns and tens of millions of “assault weapons”—the types of firearms that gun control supporters have tried the hardest to get banned5—and the number of firearms typically rises about 4 million per year.6 Annual numbers of new AR-15s, the most popular semi-automatic rifle that gun control supporters call an “assault weapon,” are soaring. In 2008, there were more than 337,000 new AR-15s configured for home defense, competition, training, recreational target practice and hunting.7 NRA-supported Instant Check firearm transactions have increased over 10 percent annually since 2006.8

            Less Gun Control: Over the last quarter-century, many federal, state and local gun control laws have been eliminated or made less restrictive. The federal “assault weapon” ban, upon which gun control supporters claimed public safety hinged, expired in 2004 and the murder rate has since dropped 10 percent. The federal handgun waiting period, for years the centerpiece of gun control supporters’ agenda, expired in 1998, in favor of the NRA-supported national Instant Check, and the murder rate has since dropped 21 percent. Accordingly, some states have eliminated obsolete waiting periods and purchase permit requirements. There are now 40 Right-to-Carry states, an all-time high, up from 10 in 1987. All states have hunter protection laws, 48 have range protection laws, 48 prohibit local gun laws more restrictive than state law, 44 protect the right to arms in their constitutions, 33 have “castle doctrine” laws protecting the right to use guns in self-defense, and Congress and 33 states prohibit frivolous lawsuits against the firearm industry.9 Studies for Congress, the Congressional Research Service, the Library of Congress, the National Institutes of Justice, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found no evidence that gun control reduces crime.10 The FBI doesn’t list gun control as one of the many factors that determine the type and level of crime from place to place.11 

            Notes:

1. FBI, “Crime rates continue to fall,” Sept. 13, 2010, www.fbi.gov/page2/september10/crime_091310.html.
2. Through 2009, FBI www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2008/data/table_04.html, www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2009/data/table_04.html  and BJS http://bjsdata.ojp.usdoj.gov/dataonline/. Compiled at www.nraila.org/Issues/FactSheets/Read.aspx?ID=128.
3. Gary Kleck, Targeting Guns, Aldine de Gruyter, 1997, p. 184.
4. In the 1970s, the Brady Campaign said “There are now 40 million handguns. . . . the number could build to 100 million. . . . the consequences can be terrible to imagine.” (“There is now a nationwide, full-time, professional organization to battle the gun lobby!” pamphlet, circa 1975.) With violent crime low and declining in 2008 , it said “Our communities are less safe today” because the federal “assault weapon” ban had expired. (Assault Weapons Threaten Our Safety and Security,” no longer on the group’s website, but on file with NRA-ILA.)
5. While anti-gun groups now campaign against “assault weapons” (mostly rifles and shotguns), they originally campaigned against handguns, giving up on that effort in the late 1980s, when it became clear that they had failed. (After Massachusetts and California voters overwhelmingly rejected handgun ban referenda, and Congress not only did not ban handguns, but instead passed the NRA-supported Firearm Owners Protection Act in 1986.)
                In 1975, the National Council to Control Handguns (now called the Brady Campaign) called for “a ban on the manufacture, sale, and importation of all handguns and handgun ammunition.” (Nelson T. “Pete” Shields, People Weekly, Oct. 20, 1975.) The group said “Our battle is against handguns,” which it called “a national plague.” (“There is now a nationwide, full-time, professional organization to battle the gun lobby” pamphlet, circa 1975.) In 1976, the group’s leader said “The first problem is to slow down the increasing number of handguns being produced and sold in this country. The second problem is to get handguns registered. And the final problem is to make the possession of all handguns and all handgun ammunition—except for the military, policemen, licensed security guards, licensed sporting clubs, and licensed gun collectors—totally illegal.” (Richard Harris, “A Reporter At Large: Handguns,” The New Yorker, July 26, 1976.) A few years later, the National Coalition to Ban Handguns said “the primary function of a handgun is to kill a human being. . . . It is the concealable handgun that threatens and intimidates the citizens of this country.” (Pamphlet, “20 Questions and Answers,” circa 1981.) Then-San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein (later, U.S. Senate sponsor of the federal “assault weapon” ban of 1994-2004), said she was “deeply committed” to her proposal to ban the private possession of handguns in the city, even though she had carried a handgun for protection. (Ivan Sharpe, “People With Guns,” San Francisco Examiner, March 28, 1982.) In 1982, Handgun Control filed a brief in Quilici v. Morton Grove, in support of the Illinois town’s handgun ban. In 2008, Brady Campaign filed a brief to the Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller, in support of Washington, D.C.’s handgun ban.
                Josh Sugarmann, former communications director of the National Coalition to Ban Handguns, has written books and articles advocating the banning of handguns. In 1988, he released a white paper stating “[A]ssault weapons [will] strengthen the handgun restriction lobby for the following reasons: It will be a new topic in what has become to the press and public an “old” debate. . . . [H]andgun restriction consistently remains a non-issue with the vast majority of legislators, the press, and public. . . . Efforts to restrict assault weapons are more likely to succeed than those to restrict handguns.” (“Assault Weapons and Accessories in America,” Sept. 1988, chapter titled “Conclusions.”)
6. BATFE estimated 215 million guns in 1999 (“Crime Gun Trace Reports, 1999,” 11/00, p. ix, www.atf.gov/firearms/ycgii/1999/index.htm). The National Academy of Sciences estimated 258 million (National Research Council, “Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review,” National Academies Press, 2005). See also BATFE, “Annual Firearms Manufacturers and Export Reports”, http://www.atf.gov/statistics/.
7. Ibid, “Annual Firearms Manufacturers and Export Reports.”
8. The FBIs report 95 million approved new and used firearm transactions by firearm dealers from 1994 through 2008. (“Background Checks for Firearm Transfers, 2008,” http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/html/bcft/2008/bcft08st.cfm and NICS transaction data www.fbi.gov/hq/cjisd/nics/nics_checks_total.pdf.)
9. For fact sheets and gun law information, visit www.nraila.org/Issues/.
10. Roth, Koper, et al., “Impact Evaluation of the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act of 1994,” 3/13/97, www.urban.org/url.cfm?ID=406797; Reedy, Koper, “Impact of handgun types on gun assault outcomes: a comparison of gun assaults involving semiautomatic pistols and revolvers,” Injury Prevention 2003, ttp://ip.bmjjournals.com/cgi/reprint/9/2/151; Koper et al., “Report to the National Institute of Justice, An Updated Assessment of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban: Impacts on Gun Markets and Gun Violence, 1994-2003,” 6/04, www.sas.upenn.edu/jerrylee/jlc-new/Research/Koper_aw_final.pdf; Wm. J. Krouse, Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, “Semiautomatic Assault Weapons Ban,” 12/16/04; Library of Congress, “Firearms Regulations in Various Foreign Countries,” 5/98, LL98-3, 97-2010; Task Force on Community Preventive Service, “First Reports Evaluating the Effectiveness of Strategies for Preventing Violence: Firearms Laws,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 10/03/03, www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5214a2.htm; Nat’l. Research Council, “Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review,” Nat’l. Academies Press, 2005, http://books.nap.edu/books/0309091241/html/index.html.
11. FBI, “Variables Affecting Crime,” www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2009/about/variables_affecting_crime.html.

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