Gun-related crimes are becoming less frequent in Virginia even as firearm sales in the state continue to rise, countering observers’ claims that new gun regulations will reduce homicides, robberies, and other violent crimes. Commenting on the trend, one local criminologist stressed his interest in the findings “given the current rhetoric about strengthening gun laws.”
All in all, crimes committed with firearms in Virginia collectively decreased for a fourth consecutive year, while gun sales climbed to a new record in 2012 with 490,119 firearms purchased — a 16-percent increase over 2011, according to data compiled by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Last year major gun-related crimes fell to 4,378, five percent lower than the previous year, with a three-percent drop in homicides committed with handguns, a seven-percent decrease in robberies involving handguns, and an 11-percent reduction in robberies committed with all firearms.
Observing data over the past seven years, total gun sales in Virginia have increased an astonishing 101 percent, while crimes involving the use of firearms have plunged 28 percent during that period. Omitting rifle and shotgun sales — which can distort figures owing to the rarity of their use in crimes — crimes committed with handguns dropped 22 percent, despite handgun sales climbing by 112 percent from 2006 to 2011.
"This appears to be additional evidence that more guns don't necessarily lead to more crime," said Thomas R. Baker, a criminology expert and assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University's L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs. "It's a quite interesting trend given the current rhetoric about strengthening gun laws and the presumed effect it would have on violent crimes.”
While Baker was reluctant to contend that people should reject all future gun laws, he noted that the sharp drop in crime “really makes you question if making it harder for law-abiding people to buy guns would have any effect on crime.”
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