Setting the New York Times Straight on Guns and Crime

AP Photo/Brittainy Newman

Many Americans have never been touched by so-called gun violence. Those folks are fortunate.

Some, like myself, have limited but devastating contact with it. Still others have violence as a part of the daily fabric of their lives.

But anti-gunners love to try to overstate the danger. They do it regularly and their allies at the New York Times like to help.

Our friends over at The Truth About Guns recently took issue with a piece from the Times. It started with an interactive feature that will show you the gun homicides that took place near your home. 

In a companion piece, though, things get ridiculously stupid.

An accompanying article clutched the collective pearls in the Times’ newsroom, interviewing emergency room doctors who are left to treat those victims of crime and attempt to save lives because of criminals running amok. It portends that the growing number of law-abiding gun owners is somehow responsible for the criminal misuse of firearms, the unlawful killing of others and overall lack of humanity displayed by criminals.

The Times’ even wrote, “A rise in gun ownership made it more likely for violent disputes to become deadly.” However, they failed to demonstrate how lawful gun ownership drives criminal activities – much less murder. The Times attempted to tie the murder rates, which are slowly falling, to the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), giving the gun control group Giffords Law Center ink to credit gun control laws for reducing murders. The Times glancingly wrote about policing, but mostly in a way that was a burden on communities. The authors didn’t seriously address the detrimental effects of yanking thousands of police off the beat, reducing patrols, releasing criminals without bail or failing to prosecute criminals to only have them repeat or commit more serious crimes. For the authors, law-abiding gun owners were the problem. The readers just needed to trust their narrative.

But the authors never proved their premise. They couldn’t show a definitive link between law-abiding gun owners and criminal activity – much less murders because there isn’t one. There is no causation, or even correlation, between law-abiding gun owners and shocking crime rates in communities across America.

In fact, Slow Facts by Rob Morse reported that while the data isn’t perfect, there’s evidence of “a slight negative correlation between murder rates and gun ownership.”

“Say what you will — and the gun banners certainly will — but the data doesn’t show a correlation of gun ownership and murder rates,” wrote Morse. “We also see a number of countries in the data with very low rates of gun ownership and frighteningly high murder rates. We also see countries with high rates of gun ownership and low murder rates.”

Morse notes that he's a retired engineer, not a sociologist or criminologist or someone who is supposed to be an expert in putting this data together. If he can do it, anyone should.

And, of course, he's right. Completely.

Another data point worth considering here is that our non-gun homicide rate is higher than the total homicide rate of other developed nations. If the issue were purely about guns, then how is our non-gun homicide rate so high compared to other high-income nations?

The simple answer is that something else is going on here beyond guns, which is what Morse seemingly touches on himself.

Additionally, as Morse points out, there are a ton of high-crime nations out there with very strict gun control laws. South America, for example, has a lot of gun control measures on each nation's books. They also have a homicide rate that is through the roof. Funny how they get excluded from the discussion.

The truth is that gun control doesn't prevent homicides. If it were, then it would do it across the board and it doesn't. It never has.

Yet TTAG's Doug Howlett does note a correlation that the Times missed entirely.

There is, though, a causation and correlation that goes in the opposite direction. As crime runs unabated, more Americans choose to exercise their Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms. They refuse to be a willing victim, even when progressive policies force police departments to issue warnings to the public to just be nice to the criminal threatening your life.

This isn't even difficult to comprehend. Hell, even many anti-gunners go and buy firearms to protect themselves. Does anyone else remember anti-gunner Alyssa Milano admitting to owning guns herself? I sure do.

When violence becomes a problem, at least in an individual's mind, they tend to seek out some means of protection. Sometimes that might just be something like an alarm system or getting a big dog, but for a lot of other people, a firearm is the option they choose.

They should have the right to do that.

And because they do have that right and exercise that right, the correlation the Times sees--an increase in gun sales corresponding to an increase in violent crime--is often the reverse. Crime starts ticking up so people get more guns.

However, no one really expects the Times to get it right. They're not interested in facts. They're interested in narrative. If they fail to toe the correct line, we all know the newsroom will revolt because they've done it before. Then again, it's not like anyone left at the Times really cares all that much.