About 20 years ago, criminologist John Lott wrote a book that documented how violent crime decreased in states that passed “shall issue” gun carry permits. Lott’s book, “More Guns, Less Crime,” was a pivotal moment in understanding the harmful effects of gun control laws. The assumption of a positive link between gun control and civic safety was broken. Now, another gun control assumption is being called into question as new data shows that more guns don’t necessarily result in more firearms accidents.
Gun sales have set records several times in recent years. Gun sales as measured by NICS background checks increased after the election of Barack Obama in 2008 and again after his reelection and attempt to impose new gun controls in the aftermath of the Newtown school massacre.
The prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency caused sales to spike even further. Gun sales in 2016 smashed all previous records. At more than 27 million background checks, more than twice as many guns were purchased in 2016 as in 2008.
Liberal dogma would lead one to believe that the vast numbers of new guns in the hands of private citizens would lead to a dramatic increase in rates of violent crime and firearms accidents. Neither assumption is true.
The Washington Examiner reports that a new report by the National Safety Council puts the number of gun-related accidental deaths for 2015, the latest year that statistics are available, at 489. This is the lowest since recordkeeping began and represents a 17 percent drop from 2014.
Gun accidents make up less than one percent of the accidental deaths studied in the report by the nonprofit organization. Guns caused far fewer accidental deaths than automobiles and drug overdoses, which were leading causes of accidental death in various age groups. The odds of accidental gun deaths fell between “pedacyclist incidents” and “air and space transport incidents.”
Likewise, crime rates across the country remain near record lows despite claims by Democrats and President Trump that crime is at critical levels. FBI data from 2014, the most recent year available, shows the US murder rate at its lowest point since 1957.
Some cities did report an uptick in violent crime in 2015, but Politifact notes that the overall trend has been downward. “Snapshots are not trends. And two or three years of data are far too few to establish a trend,” said Richard A. Berk, professor of criminology and statistics at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
CNN notes that the uptick in violent crime was due to increases in specific cities, such as Chicago, which doesn’t even make USA Today’s list of the most violent cities in the country when crime rates are adjusted for population, although its suburb of Rockford, Ill. does. None of the cities on the list are known for large illegal immigrant populations, making the president’s claims that illegals are driving the uptick in the crime rate problematic.
Chris Eger at Guns.com credits the increase in safety programs with the decline in gun accidents. “The basic gun safety rules as advocated by the National Rifle Association are mentioned at least as far back as Jeff Cooper’s ‘The Complete Book of Modern Handgunning’ in 1961,” he writes. “The gun rights group has also backed their Eddie Eagle GunSafe, which they contend has reached more than 28 million children since 1988.” Eger also gives a nod to the 2005 law that required including gun locks with new gun sales and the distribution of gun locks by the National Shooting Sports Foundation as part of Project Childsafe.
“This latest release from the National Safety Council shows that the vast majority of the 100 million American firearms owners meet the serious responsibilities which come with firearms ownership,” said NSSF President and CEO Steve Sanetti. “They store their firearms safely and securely when not in use, and follow the basic rules of firearms safety when handling them.”
Perhaps we should question more liberal dogmas.