The idea that increased gun sales are responsible for the surge in violent crime across the country has been debunked by academic studies as well as plenty of anecdotal evidence, but that’s not stopping gun control activists from clinging to the false narrative that more guns leads to more crime.
In Virginia, longtime activist Andrew Goddard was recently featured in a local news report that gave him plenty of space to expound on the notion that more guns inevitably translates into more crime. Even when Goddard’s numbers didn’t add up, the station didn’t offer any pushback, which is par for the course from the anti-gun media. Thankfully, we’re here to provide some additional perspective and data. Let’s start with concealed carry.
More people are also carrying concealed guns. Concealed Carry Permit applications spiked from around 60,000 each year from 2015 to 2017 to 292,000 in 2018. They have stayed well above historical levels each year since then, with 179,513 permit applications issued in 2020, and 2021 applications projected to top 160,000.
Andrew Goddard, a director for a nonprofit working on gun violence prevention, said the data shows the concept of ‘‘more guns for protection” hasn’t been the solution.
“It sounds reasonable but it hasn’t panned out,” Goddard said. “We have not seen a reduction in crime. What we have seen is having more people, in more places, with more guns, at more times, leads to more deaths and more injuries.”
What Goddard fails to mention is that Virginia has one of the lowest rates of violent crime in the country, which shouldn’t be the case if his “more guns, more crime” theory held any water. There’s also no evidence whatsoever that concealed carry holders are driving violent crime. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The number of concealed carry applications increased by almost 400% between 2017 and 2018 and have remained elevated ever since, while the state’s violent crime rate and homicide rate saw their biggest increase between 2015 and 2016 before declining again starting in 2017.
In 2018, when concealed carry applications soared to almost 300,000, the state’s violent crime rate dipped from 210.4 per 100,000 to 204.2, while Virginia’s homicide rate declined from 5.6 to 4.9. In fact, historically Virginia’s crime rate was much higher before the state adopted “shall issue” carry laws in 1995 than afterwards. In 1995, Virginia’s violent crime rate was 361.5 and the homicide rate stood at 7.6 per 100k. Within five years, the violent crime rate had declined to 281.7 and homicides dropped to 5.7 per 100,000.
As gun ownership has increased in Virginia, so have gun-related deaths.
Virginia Department of Health data shows gun-related deaths have increased from about 850 per year (2007-2013) to more than 1,000 each year (2016-2019).
About 64 percent of these deaths are suicides.
“A lot more people are buying guns because they’re afraid and they’ve got the idea if they have a gun they’ll be in a better position,” Goddard said. “The data that’s available shows the exact opposite of that.”
As the data shows, firearm-related suicides have been basically flat in Virginia since 2016, though suicides have increased slightly overall. The biggest increase has actually been in suicide by suffocation, which increased by 25% between 2014 and 2018.
Suicide is a mental health issue, not a gun control issue, and that’s even more apparent when you factor in the number of drug overdose deaths in Virginia, which skyrocketed by 40% in 2020.
Virginia reported 2,186 deaths related to a drug overdose in 2020, a 42.1% increase from the 1,538 reported in 2019.
The U.S. as a whole saw a 29.6% increase in overdose deaths with 92,183 reported across the country in 2020.
Data from the CDC shows opioids and synthetic opioids as the leading source of drug overdoses across the country.
That trend reflects the data from Virginia, which shows 1,863 opioid-related overdose deaths in 2020 and 1,640 synthetic opioid-related overdose deaths.
There’s no doubt that homicides have also increased in Virginia. In fact, the state police estimate that murders rose by 23.4% last year. But if increased gun sales were to blame, then why did other violent crimes like robbery and aggravated assault actually decline? Is Goddard’s argument that more guns leads to more of some crimes, but not others?
Then there’s the fact that shootings and murders actually increased at a greater rate in that bastion of gun control known as New York City than it did in gun-friendly Virginia. New York City saw a 44% increase in murders and a 97% increase in shootings, but also a decline in other violent crimes like rape and robbery. If gun sales were driving the crime spike, Virginia should have seen a much larger increase than New York City, where gun stores basically don’t exist.
Finally, both Goddard and the TV station that interviewed him ignore the fact that while gun sales increased in the state last year, so did the number of gun control laws on the books. Laws requiring background checks on private firearms transfers, limiting gun purchases to one-per-month, implementing “red flag” firearm seizures, and a reporting requirement for lost or stolen firearms all took effect last year, but apparently didn’t affect violent crime in the slightest.
For gun control activists like Goddard, crime statistics are just a means to an end. If crime goes up, it’s because we don’t have enough restrictions in place. When crime goes down, the numbers could be even better if we had more gun laws on the book. Gun sales increased last year, and so did shootings, so the two must be connected according to the gun control lobby. Never mind the fact that Virginia has some of the lowest crime rates in the country, or that violent crime has historically decreased when more Virginians have embraced their 2A rights. Ignore the fact that violent crime soared months after Gov. Ralph Northam signed more than a half-dozen gun control bills into law. Pay no attention to the facts, and focus instead on the feelings of anti-gun advocates. That’s what Andrew Goddard and his allies would prefer, anyway.