By Mark Bowes
Gun-related violent crime in Virginia has dropped steadily over the past six years as the sale of firearms has soared to a new record, according to an analysis of state crime data with state records of gun sales.
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.
The numbers appear to contradict a long-running popular narrative that more guns cause more violent crime, said Virginia Commonwealth University professor Thomas R. Baker, who compared Virginia crime data for those years with gun-dealer sales estimates obtained by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
“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.
The significance of Baker’s analysis was questioned by one of the state’s ardent gun-control advocates.
“I’m not surprised that it would appear that more guns is going along with less crime, because there’s been a downward trend in violent crime anyway,” said Andrew Goddard, president of the Virginia Center for Public Safety.
One of Virginia’s most outspoken gun-rights supporters, Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, was not surprised for a different reason.
“My opponents are constantly saying, ‘If you got more guns on the street, there’s going to be more crime.’ It all depends on who has the handgun,” Van Cleave said. “As long as it’s going into the hands of people like you or me, there’s not going to be a problem. Criminals are going to continue to get their guns no matter what.”