FBI Crime Stats Show an Armed Public Is a Safer Public

Data from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation show that America has been on a firearms buying spree since the end of 2005. Meanwhile, the FBI recently released preliminary 2009 crime data indicating that violent crime has been dropping at an accelerating rate since the end of 2006.

The FBI reports the number of background checks, by month, requested for potential firearms purchases through licensed dealers. When a prospective buyer wants to buy a gun, he fills out a form which the dealer submits to law enforcement. If approved, the sale proceeds. This system is called the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS for short.

Between November 2005 and October 2009, nearly every month’s requests were higher than the year before. (For example, there were 12.4% more NICS requests in September 2009 than in September 2008.) The sole exception was December 2007, which saw 1.9% fewer requests than December 2006. On an annual basis, each year’s total saw double-digit growth over the previous year beginning in 2006.

NICS data mirror the estimated sales data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, which also show double-digit growth beginning in 2006. (Not all background checks result in one gun being purchased.)

The chart below shows that after gun sales attained record growth in 2006, violent crime rates began to fall in 2007. As gun sales continued to register records each following year, violent crime rates decreased at an accelerating rate.

More guns, less murder

The following chart shows that, like overall violent crime, after gun sales began to peak in 2006, the murder rate declined at an accelerating pace beginning in 2007, going from -0.7% to -3.9% in 2008, to -7.2% in 2009.

Murder rates are perhaps the best indicator of violent crime trends, compared to the other FBI major violent crimes. A dead body with bloody wounds clearly indicates violence, but living victims don’t always tell police they were assaulted. The FBI calculates violent crime rates based upon what’s reported to police.

After the Virginia Tech shooting, Katie Couric interviewed Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Said Helmke:

“While it is ‘people who kill people,’ they do so more often, and more successfully because we make it so easy to get such lethal weapons [guns].”

It’s true that NICS data show how easy it is for Americans to buy guns, but FBI crime data shows that law-abiding gun owners are not the problem.

More guns, less rape, robbery, and aggravated assault

The table below shows that after NICS requests attained 10% annual growth during the 2006-2009 period, crime rates for all four FBI major violent crimes began to decrease, generally at accelerating rates.

Is this because criminals know more people have been buying guns and getting concealed carry permits? Even old media has been reporting the surge in gun sales.

In 2006, ABC reported:

More women, from soccer moms to professionals like the ones at the Blue Ridge Arsenal gun range in Chantilly, Va., are packing heat for sport, self-empowerment and protection.

In gun-unfriendly California, ABC recently reported:

Local gun shop owners are seeing an increase in the number of women customers. Personal protection is the main reason they're shopping. According to the national shooting sports foundation, almost half the people taking their first handgun class this past year were women.

These are just two examples of the numerous articles about new women shooters and their desire to empower themselves with effective self-defense tools.