Do more guns equal more murders?
Since the inept attempt by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos and Brian Ross to link the killer in Aurora, Colorado, to the Tea Party collapsed, the new narrative – driven by such bastions of the Establishment as The New York Times, the Associated Press, Time magazine, and The New Yorker – has been to blame, not the killer, but the alleged laxity of gun control laws in the U.S. Personalities ranging from CNN’s Piers Morgan, to Juan Williams of Fox News Channel, to film critic Roger Ebert have all joined in to exploit the killings, to lament the alleged cowardice of American politicians before the fearsome NRA.
The pols themselves have not been far behind: Representative Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) complained on MSNBC that her colleagues who don’t join in her push for gun control “don’t have a spine”; New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city’s police should go on strike for stricter gun-control laws; Even Mexican President Felipe Calderon chimed in on Twitter, denouncing U.S. gun laws as “mistaken.”
Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney stressed President Obama’s advocacy of “common-sense measures.” That, according to the President, means stricter gun control: repealing the Tiahrt Amendment, closing the so-called “gun show loophole,” mandating “childproof” guns, and permanently reinstating the Clinton-era ban on so-called “assault weapons.”
The common thread running through this narrative is a familiar one: The easy availability of guns in the U.S. is creating an epidemic of mass shootings, turning the nation into an increasingly violent place reminiscent of the Wild West.
It’s true that gun ownership in the U.S. is on the rise, as shown by statistics from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). That’s the program under which the FBI performs background checks on anyone who seeks to purchase a firearm in the U.S. from a licensed dealer. According to the FBI, “More than 100 million such checks have been made in the last decade, leading to more than 700,000 denials.” That’s a denial rate of about 0.7 percent, meaning that 99.3 percent of all purchases have been approved. (That’s not surprising; denials are generally issued on the basis of criminal backgrounds, and criminals generally obtain their weapons illegally.) This statistic implies that law-abiding citizens purchased some 99.3 million firearms during this period.
Over the past decade, reports the FBI, the number of background checks performed under NICS each year has increased dramatically — from less than 9 million in 2001 to more than 14 million in 2010 (the latest year for which final figures are available). That’s an increase of more than 60 percent.
The FBI also collects statistics on murder rates throughout the U.S., published in its Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Statistics. Over the past decade, according to UCR data, the murder rate in the U.S. plunged to the lowest level in 50 years – from 5.6 (murders per 100,000 population) in 2001 to 4.8 in 2010. That’s a decline of more than 14 percent. (Preliminary figures indicate that murder dropped another 1.9 percent in 2011.)
To summarize: Over the past decade, the annual number of background checks performed increased by more than 60 percent, while the murder rate simultaneously dropped by about 14 percent. (See chart and graph).
The facts are utterly devastating to the narrative propounded by the mainstream media and its favored politicians: Either (1) there is no correlation between gun ownership and the murder rate, or (2) gun ownership is negatively correlated with the murder rate (in other words, more guns means fewer murders). Either way, the Establishment narrative is not merely unsupported but conclusively refuted by the evidence.