Violent Crime Declined As Gun Sales Climbed in 2009

By Matt Cover | September 16, 2010 | 4:30 AM EDT

Browning pistol, SFS (Source: adamsguns)

( - Violent crime continued to fall in 2009, even as gun sales reached an all-time high, according to statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). This is “proof positive that gun prohibitionists have been consistently and undeniably wrong,” the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms said in a statement.

Released Tuesday, the violent crime statistics are part of the FBI’s yearly Uniform Crime Report, which collects crime statistics from localities all across the country and is the most comprehensive report on crime in America.

According to the FBI, the number of violent crimes of all types declined in 2009 by 5.3 percent and property crimes declined 4.6 percent. In fact, the rate of violent crime declined 6.1 percent below 2008 figures.

In total, the FBI estimated that 1.3 million violent crimes were committed in 2009.

“Each of the four violent crime offenses decreased when compared with the 2008 estimates. Murder and non-negligent manslaughter and robbery had the largest decreases: 7.3 percent and 8.0 percent, respectively,” the FBI said in a press release summarizing the report. “In addition, aggravated assault decreased 4.2 percent, and forcible rape declined 2.6 percent.”

In fact, the types of crime most likely to be committed with a firearm, murders and manslaughters, experienced one of the greatest rates of decline in 2009 – 7.3 percent.

While violent crime was going down in 2009, guns sales were experiencing a record year. According to data from the FBI’s National Instant Background Check System (NICS), 2009 was the best year on record for gun sales.

According to the NICS figures, 14 million guns were sold in 2009, the biggest year since the system began recording data in 1998. The NICS figures are considered the most accurate measurement of gun sales because federal law requires that a NICS check be done prior to every firearm sale in America.

In fact, there were nearly 2 million more guns sold in the United States in 2009 than in 2008, the next best year for gun sales, when 12.7 million NICS checks were recorded.

The NCIS data do not capture all gun sales, however, as only federally licensed primary dealers are required to conduct them. Firearms sales between private citizens can still be done freely, without having to let the federal government know about it. This normally occurs at one of the nation’s many public gun shows, meaning that the firearms sales figures provided by NICS are actually lower than the true figures.

This means that gun sales likely exceeded the already record figure of 14 million indicated by the NICS.

Taken together, these two sets of statistics seem to undermine the claims of anti-Second Amendment groups such as the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence that push for strict federal and state gun control laws, including an outright ban on so-called assault weapons.

Such groups have gone to great lengths to make a connection between gun ownership and violent crime, often pointing out that gun ownership “increases the risk” of injury of death.

“Keeping a firearm in the home increases the risk of homicide by a factor of 3,” the Brady Campaign’s Web site states.

Given that as gun sales have increased, violent crime has decreased seems to indicate that firearm ownership and the commission of violent crime is only incidentally, not causally, linked.

“What the data tell us is exactly the opposite of what the gun-ban lobby has predicted for several years,” said Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizen’s Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, in a statement. “Their dire predictions that America’s streets would run red have been shown up as a fraudulent sales pitch for public disarmament.”

“No matter how gun prohibitionists try to spin this,” said Gottlieb, “the bottom line is that they have been consistently and demonstrably wrong, and they know it. On the other hand, gun rights organizations have been consistently right when we argued that increased gun ownership would not lead to higher crime rates, and might even have a deterrent effect.”