Guns and Crime.

Writing at Reason, Brian Doherty approvingly cites NRA statistics on crime, arguing that crime goes down as gun possession goes up:

Quick and dirty macrodata chart from the NRA via on guns and crime in the U.S. showing that as gun possession goes up and gun laws loosen, violent crime goes down. From 1991-2009, total violent crime down 43 percent (with murder down 49 percent).

This sounds great! Except for the tiny fact that gun possession hasn't actually gone up; in 1993, 45 percent of Americans said they owned a gun, by 2009, that number dropped to 33 percent. Beyond that, there isn't actually much of a correlation between gun ownership and crime rates; more guns doesn't equal less crime, and fewer guns doesn't equal more crime. Moreover, when looking at nearly 20 years of declining crime across the entire country, it seems a little silly to cherry-pick (declining rates of) gun ownership as the most important factor. More reasonable would be to note the fact that the 1990s and 2000s saw a combination of things that would necessarily lead to lower crime rates: an end to the crack epidemic, robust economic growth, an aging population, a higher prison population, improved police work, and the strong positive feedback loop that is built into lower crime rates.

This just goes to show that you should be careful about where you get your statistics! Relying on weird correlations from explicitly pro-gun organizations is a recipe for making dubious claims about guns and crime. Today it's Brian Doherty; tomorrow it could be you.

-- Jamelle Bouie

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