PJ Media

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.

Elizabeth Hellmann, program director for NRA women’s shooting sports programs, says:

In 2000, our first year, Women on Target had 13 clinics with 496 participants. Based upon attendance reports submitted so far this year, WOT is slightly above the figures for last year, which had a record of over 9,000 attendees.

Most women who call about WOT clinics say they are interested in learning to shoot for the purpose of personal protection. Generally, the NRA finds that women who are interested in learning to shoot often state that they want to obtain concealed carry permits.

Pistol training is our most popular class, whether it’s for Women On Target or basic NRA courses.

MSNBC recently ran an article entitled “Record numbers now licensed to pack heat.” An ABC affiliate in California noted:

With budget cuts depleting local police and sheriffs [sic] departments, concealed weapons permit applications have bumped up slightly.

The Boston Globe noted that even in Massachusetts — where gun ownership is restricted to those who complete coursework and pass a police background check — gun ownership increased over 15% during the 2008-2009 period.

All across America, concealed carry permits are on the rise. Between 2006 and 2009, Florida issued over 271,000 new licenses, a 66% increase to over 684,000.

During the same time period, Texas saw a 56% increase, bringing their total to over 402,000; Michigan saw an 80% increase in licensees; and Utah experienced a 78% increase.

Since 2005, there has been a 25% increase in justifiable homicides by private citizens, 31% more by citizens with handguns. (Justifiable homicides result when citizens stop felonious attacks against themselves or another person, killing the attacker.)

While few defensive gun uses result in the attacker’s death, justifiable homicide data serve as an indicator of how more citizens are choosing self-defense over victimhood.

News items abound where armed citizens successfully defended themselves. A perusal of The Armed Citizen contains a generous sampling of successful self-defense articles going back to November 2003, and Keep and Bear Arms usually posts a number of stories each day.

More guns. More gun owners. More law-abiding citizens carrying handguns in public. More caution amongst violent predators?

When interviewed by the Christian Science Monitor, Violence Policy Center founder Josh Sugarmann complained about how much influence pro-gun writers and organizations have gained in recent years, saying that pro-rights bloggers “clearly have more free time than people on our side of the issue do.” He conveniently overlooked the fact that he has plenty of time to promote his side because he receives over $135,000 yearly from the Joyce Foundation, compared to these volunteer “bloggers.”

In 2009, Gallup found that support for a handgun ban had faded to its lowest level (29%) since they began the survey in 1959. Gallup got similar results when asking people whether or not they supported stricter gun control laws.

Organizations like the Brady Campaign and Violence Policy Center like to blame the “gun lobby’s undue influence” on policy makers for their difficulty in passing “sensible gun laws” that “the public supports.”

The numbers speak louder than anti-rights rhetoric: more guns, less crime.