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The Opposite of Data-Driven Public Policy

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Opposite of Data-Driven Public Policy

The Governor of Vermont, Phil Scott, signed gun control measures earlier this week – adding restrictive new laws including age restrictions on firearms purchases, bans on “high-capacity” (read: standard capacity) magazines, bans on bump stocks, and “closes” the non-existent “gun show loophole.” 

The Hill called the new laws “a big win for advocates of stricter controls in a state that has long held some of the most permissive rules in the nation.” That description, and the new restrictions themselves, may suggest that Vermont is reeling from a crime wave or suffering from a “gun violence epidemic.”

To be blunt, Vermont has historically been one of the safest states in the nation. U.S. News just rated it the second safest state. Vermont had the 2nd best violent crime ranking – meaning the 2nd lowest violent crime rate. Let’s take a closer look at crime in Vermont and at firearms-involved homicides in particular. 

Using FBI data, there were 18 people killed with a rifle of any type in Vermont between 2005 and 2016. The same number of people were killed by “personal weapons” – hands, fists, and feet. So, on average, two people are killed with rifles of any type in Vermont in a year (if you round up). The rate per 100,000 in population has ranged from 0.0 to 0.6 in this time period. Overall, six people were killed with a firearm in Vermont in 2016 – a rate of 1.0 firearms-related homicides per 100,000 Vermonters. 

We continually note that these statistics refer to a rifle of any type because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Vermont Department of Public Safety, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) do not provide a breakdown of the specific rifle type used in a homicide. One cannot parse “assault weapons with high-capacity magazines” from bolt-action rifles with the available data. No data on the number of rounds fired or the magazine capacity is available.

But, by all means, this is a “big win for gun control advocates.” The sitting governor of a state has signed into law a solution based not on a defined need or driven by data but rather because anti-gun radicals have perverted the Green Mountain state. This really suggests that gun control advocates care more about restricting 2nd Amendment rights than they do about preventing violence.

If preventing violence really is their mission, we’re not quite sure how they found themselves in Vermont… where violence is about as rare as it gets. 

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