More guns equal more crime? Not in 2009, FBI crime report shows.
FBI's latest crime report, for the first half of 2009, shows America is a less violent place even though ownership of guns has surged. Deterrent effect may have a role, but others see no correlation.
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No correlation, researchers say
As advocates on both sides keep score, what’s the rest of America to think as they weigh the relative crime risks – and statistics – in their own neighborhoods?Skip to next paragraph
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The debate over whether guns spur or deter crime has been under way for decades. So far, research has come out with, in essence, a net-zero correlation between gun sales and crime rates. More likely factors for the crime rate decline have to do with Americans hunkering down, spending less time out on the town with cash in their pockets and more time at home with the porch lights on, experts say. So-called "smart policing" that focuses specifically on repeat offenders and troubled areas could also be playing a role, as could extended unemployment benefits that staved off desperation.
“We can absolutely draw a fact-based conclusion about [whether there’s a correlation between declining crime rates and increasing gun ownership], and the answer is no,” says David Kennedy, director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control in New York. “There are very consistent findings that the acquisition and obtaining of carry permits by ordinary law-abiding people has either no or very little impact on the crime rate.”
He finds more evidence in the FBI’s new report, which shows crimes declining not only across a variety of violent and nonviolent crime classifications, but also in both gun-resistant and gun-friendly corners of the country.
“When you’re seeing declines [in violent crime] both in cities like Atlanta, which is in a relatively gun-friendly state, and in places like New York City, where it is essentially impossible for ordinary folks to acquire and carry especially handguns, then it’s not the guns that are driving the [statistics],” Mr. Kennedy says.
A possible deterrent effect?
But one prominent gun rights researcher, Gary Kleck, a criminologist at Florida State University in Tallahassee, leaves the door open to the idea that news of booming gun sales could have a deterrent effect on violent criminals.
“It’s possible that criminals hear about lots of people buying guns, and then you can see a plausible mechanism, that conceivably could have produced a reduction in murder,” says Professor Kleck. “It’s all a matter of perception, not reality, for prospective murderers."
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