Second Amendment advocates and gun control supporters do agree on one thing: the value of data. Statistics have always played a role in the debate over the future of firearm ownership in America and now the nation turns to Virginia, a state where more people have guns, yet less crime is committed.

According to the Richmond Times Dispatch, the state hit a new record high when 490,119 guns were purchased in 2012, constituting a 16 percent increase over the previous year. This surge in firearm ownership is similar to the high demand seen elsewhere in the country. More people are buying guns, and more of those customers are new gun owners. At the same time, the Virginia State Police reported a five percent decrease in crimes committed with a firearm, including a 11 percent fall in robberies committed with a gun.

“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,” said Phillip Van Cleave, gun rights activist and president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League. “It’s a very tricky situation for a criminal, because if you attack somebody with a gun, that’s a very personal thing you’ve done to them. So the criminal not knowing how the person is going to react actually works in our favor.”

The dip in crime rates is yet another good sign in five consecutive years of decreasing crime figures. In the last seven years, Virginia has seen a drop of 28 percent in firearm crime, while gun sales have soared 101 percent from 2006 to 2012. It is a trend that is making some researchers question whether fewer guns will equate to fewer crimes committed. However, gun control supporters are quick to warn that the two lines of statistics may not necessarily be connected. Researchers admit there are a number of factors that could play into the decrease of crime in the state.

Overall, gun crime in Virginia has decreased by five percent from 4,618 offenses in 2011 to 4,378 in 2012. Crimes committed with a handgun saw an especially noticeable decrease, but murders and manslaughter killings with all firearms rose six percent last year. Researchers are currently looking for other factors that play into the connection between crime and firearm purchases.

“To substantiate [this] 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,” said Thomas Baker, assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs. “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. But what the data does show is that the ‘more guns, less crime argument’ is certainly possible.”

John R. Lott, Jr., the author of More Guns, Less Crime, previously said that concealed handguns reduce crime by making criminals unsure of which of their victims could defend themselves. He also stated that areas with an increasing amount of concealed handgun owners will see less murders, rapes and robberies.

“States with the largest increases in gun ownership also have the largest drops in violent crimes,” said Lott in a previous interview with the University of Chicago.

“The ultimate question that concerns us all,” Lott continued, “is will allowing law-abiding citizens to own guns save lives? While there are many anecdotal stories illustrating both good and bad uses of guns, this question can only be answered by looking at data to find out what the net effect is.”

Image from bk1bennett on the flickr Creative Commons

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12 thoughts on “Virginia Crime Rates Dips as Firearm Purchases Increase

    1. Whun Hung Low; How is this debate pointless unless you don’t care about the decrease in gun related injuries and deaths?
      Where is your bleeding heart as for automobile fatalities are concerned?
      Would you prefer to have the higher crime numbers back like it was before the number of guns increased?
      I think with you it’s just about the guns, I really don’t think you really give a hoot about decreasing numbers of crimes.
      If those students had been allowed to carry guns on campus the death toll would likely have been much lower if that shooting had happened at all. Many such crimes would probably not happen if the bad guy thought he might get hurt himself!

  1. If you are at a drinking party and you decide to show your manhood by beating the crap out of someone will you pick the biggest, meanest sob there or will you pick someone you feel is an easy foe?
    If you are strung out and need another fix will you pick someone to rob that might be armed or would you choose a liberal that hates guns?
    You decide!

    1. Glenn,
      Why are you at a “drinking party” while armed?
      Whatever happened to “alcohol and guns don’t mix”?
      I know, I know, it’s just something Eddie Eagle says to con people into thinking the NRA cares about safety.

      1. Ralph, reread the post, I didn’t say there was a gun at the party, I simply used that to make a point as to how most aggressive people think!
        How did Eddie Eagle and the NRA get drug into this, are you a liberal, that would explain a lot?

      2. I read it again.
        You’re right, you didn’t say it, you implied it.
        You are implying that an aggressor will not mess with an armed person at the party.
        “biggest meanest sob” = armed in your little analogy.
        “easy foe” = unarmed.
        That’s what you guys do, word twisting, plausible deniabilty, labeling, name calling, lack of clear and direct logic.
        Here’s one that’s very clear for you.

        In the absence of guns, no one is shot!

      3. Dear Ralph, If I had known how limited you vocabulary was I would have broken that post down and let each sentence be a post unto it’s self , that way maybe it would not confuse you to such a great degree!
        Your hatred for guns and gun owners seems to be clouding your ability to read,think, or write any thing that makes any sense at all!
        Please try and remove your head from your rectum, wipe the brown stuff from you eyes and go outside for some fresh air, I think that would help you very much! Thanks Glenn

      4. Glenn,
        Your astute analysis notwithstanding, I believe I’ll stick with the side of peace over the warmongering of cretins.

      5. Ralph, has anyone ever used you in a science project, or perhaps you got a severe electric shock to your head at some point? How about football, did you play high school football without a helmet?
        Sorry if I’m boring you but I was just trying to figure out if there is a reason for your obvious difficulty with reason and common sense!
        By the way I think you can forget the part about fresh air,your too far gone for that to help! You know I may be a cretin but I’m not a warmonger, I have more guns than I have fingers and toes but in the past 45 years none of them have harmed anyone!

      6. Kinda like life insurance Ralph, hope to never use it but felt like I should get it anyway, because you never know what the future has in store!
        And besides I don’t know how many more sons Obama has lurking around looking for victims!

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