Virginia Gun Sales Pop, Crime Continues to Drop

Monday, 05 Aug 2013 03:52 PM

By Courtney Coren

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Despite a sharp increase in the number of guns being sold in Virginia, gun-related crimes have diminished, giving ammunition to Second Amendment advocates who say more guns don't necessarily lead to more violence.

In 2012, gun sales went up 16 percent with a record 490,119 guns purchased from licensed gun dealers across the Commonwealth, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

This is the fourth consecutive year for gun-related crime to drop in Virginia. While firearm purchases grew, crimes with all types of firearms dropped 5 percent from 4,618 in 2011 to 4,378 in 2012, based on Virginia State Police data.

From 2006 to 2012, firearm sales increased 101 percent in Virginia during that period, with gun crime dropping 28 percent during the same seven years.

"This appears to be additional evidence that more guns don't necessarily lead to more crime," said Thomas R. Baker, assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, who studies criminology theory.

"It's a quite interesting trend given the current rhetoric about strengthening gun laws and the presumed effect it would have on violent crimes," Baker said. "While you can't conclude from this that tougher laws wouldn't reduce crime even more, it really makes you question if making it harder for law-abiding people to buy a gun would have any effect on crime."

However, Baker warns against jumping to the conclusion that more guns equals less crime right off the bat.

"To substantiate [that] argument, you would need to eliminate a number of other factors that could potentially explain away the relationship of more guns, less crime in Virginia," he added. "Only if the relationship remained after controlling for additional factors could a researcher be more comfortable making the claim that more guns lead to less crime."

Gun control advocates do not find data on legal gun sales relevant to the current national debate.

"Guns sold incident to a background check are less likely to be involved in crimes than gun sold without a background check," said Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. "So the real question — which I don't think we really know — is what's the level of gun sales without a background check?"

Instant background checks are done on Virginians purchasing a firearm by the Virginia State Police through a federally licensed firearms dealer.

Philip Van Cleave, president of Virginia Citizens Defense League, said that since those guns are going to "decent people" that they are not being used to commit crimes "and, in fact, all those extra guns can actually work to lower crime because those are going into the hands of [concealed] permit holders or people using them to defend their homes."

"Criminals don't want to get shot by law-abiding citizens that they don't know has a gun when they try to attack them," he said. "It's a very tricky situation for a criminal."

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