NY Times Still Bitterly Clinging to 'More Guns, More Crime' Theory Even as Homicides Plunge

AP Photo/John Minchillo, File

Although it's become a topic of political debate (what hasn't, these days) about whether or not we can trust the accuracy of FBI crime stats, violent crime does appear to be trending down in most U.S. cities and is substantially lower than it was in 2021 and 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of criminal courts for months on end, while many police departments pulled back on making arrests for minor crimes even before a host of Democrat-controlled cities tried to defund the police after the death of George Floyd and the riots and unrest that ensued, which in turn helped to drive up violent crime to rates not seen in decades. 

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Gun control activists and their allies in the media and politics have also pointed to a surge in gun sales in 2020 as a primary driver of the increase in violent crime, but there's one big problem with their theory that more guns equates to more crime. With more than 1 million guns sold each month, we have tens of millions more firearms than we did just a couple of years ago, but now crime rates are generally falling across the country. More guns, less crime, in other words.

That's not the way The New York Times sees it, however. In a new piece, the paper takes a look at Columbus, Ohio, and claims a "striking spread in fatal shootings" both nationwide and in the city has taken place since 2020; "a period in which Americans have purchased more guns, the Supreme Court has made them harder to regulate, and many states, including Ohio, have loosened restrictions on firearms." 

What's odd about the reporting from The Times is that it does acknowledge things are getting better, even as it promotes the idea that things are getting worse:

Even though the tide of shootings and killings that washed across the country with the pandemic began to ebb last year, the improvement was uneven. Columbus closed out 2023 with more homicides than the year before — as did Dallas, Topeka, Kan., Memphis and Washington. 

There is optimism that 2024 is going to be better in Columbus, which has seen homicide numbers fall dramatically so far this year, with 36 as of last week, compared with 70 in the same period the year before. Gun violence nationwide is still higher than it was before the pandemic: The number of fatal shootings in the first quarter of 2024 was 13 percent higher than it was in the same period in 2019, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

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Was it higher than the same period in 2023? I'm sure The Times would have informed us if that was the case, but instead of looking at last year's rate, it points to the number of shootings five years ago; before the pandemic upended our social cohesion and criminal justice system. If the paper wants to make the case that we have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels of crime, fine, but if it's going to blame the "availability of guns" then it should also explain why we have more guns today than in 2023, but crime rates (including homicides) are dropping. 

According to crime analyst Jeff Asher's Year-to-Date Murder Comparison, Columbus's homicide rate so far this year is half what it was in 2023. That alone should tell The Times and its readers that "gun availability" can't account for crime trends. Homicides are down by 30% in Cleveland, unchanged in Cincinnati, and up 16% in Toledo, according to the latest figures from police departments in those cities, which is also a good reminder that crime, generally speaking, is a local phenomenon. 

 There is a legitimate story here, but it's not the one The Times is reporting:

The sharp decline in homicides this year is an encouraging sign, but officials say they are up against a tidal wave of guns.

In 2020, there were 11.3 million guns manufactured in the United States for domestic consumption, more than twice the number produced in 2010, according to the A.T.F. There are also signs that more guns are vanishing from the legal market.

Between 2017 and 2021, the percentage of guns recovered from crimes that had been purchased within the previous year steadily increased, according to A.T.F. data. A short “time to crime” can indicate an illegal straw purchase intended to evade background checks, minimum age laws and other safeguards.

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Again, the "tidal wave of guns" is coinciding with the "sharp decline in homicides," just as it coincided with a sharp increase in homicides in 2021. Correlation is not causation, and that's especially clear in this case, where the number of guns in circulation has steadily increased, while crime rates have gone up and down during that same time. 

The paper is far more interested in what was happening in Columbus three years ago or even last year than what's actually taking place today. The 51.6% decrease in murders this year gets the merest of mentions before the reporters turn to data that's now three to seven years old, hoping to make their "more guns, more crime" argument stick. 

For that matter, why did The Times focus on Columbus, Ohio, and not, say, Oklahoma City? Did it go looking for a city that would help it advance its narrative, ignoring other cities in pro-gun states that have seen homicides return to pre-pandemic levels? In 2019, Oklahoma City reported 88 murders. In 2023, that figure dropped to 67, not including fentanyl-related deaths charged as homicides. Even if you want to include those figures, which were counted as murders for the first time last year, the city had 75 homicides in 2023; a substantial decrease from the last year before the pandemic.

Like Ohio, Oklahoma is a Constitutional Carry state with a firearms preemption law in place barring localities from establishing their own gun control regimes. Like Columbus, Oklahoma City is the state capital and the most populous city in the state. So why didn't The Times shine a spotlight on OKC, where the murder rate continues to fall (down 15.2% compared to this point in 2023, according to Oklahoma City police)? 

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My guess is that this isn't the story The New York Times wants to sell. It wants its readers to believe that when Republicans are in charge, crime becomes out of control, which in turn is why they should vote for Joe Biden this November. The sharp decrease in murders in Columbus can be brushed aside in favor of talking about the equally sharp increase a couple of years ago, but taking a look at murders in Oklahoma City would completely shred its argument. Do you think The Times is eager to report that homicides have steadily declined since 2019, even with the passage of multiple pro-gun laws like Constitutional Carry? 

Me either. That wouldn't help its friends in the gun control lobby, and it most certainly wouldn't do anything to help Biden remain in office for another four years. 

You can expect a steady stream of these kinds of anti-2A stories between now and November. We'll do our best to fact-check every last one of them here at Bearing Arms, but we can use your help. If you see a news story that needs to be called out, just send me an email and I'll check it out. 

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