11/25/2012

"Gun-related violent crimes drop as sales soar in Va."

This study seems to have gotten some national attention.  I find the different headlines in the Richmond Times-Dispatch (Gun-related violent crimes drop as sales soar in Va) and the San Francisco Chronicle (Gun violence in Va falls, firearms sales up) interesting.   The two titles imply the opposite causalities.  I assume that the SF Chronicle title is the one put on the story by the AP since the exact same title is appearing in other papers (Seattle PI, WNCT North CarolinaHampton Roads Daily Press), though not everyone used that AP headline (WJLA).

I generally find it better to examine panel data rather than what seems like purely time-series data, but I haven't had a chance to look at this research.
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. . . . 
Thanks very much to Paul Blumstein for this link. 

UPDATE: I contacted Tom Baker and he was nice enough to very quickly respond to me.  His work can be obtained here.  He has put together a few very simple graphs.

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