Does Gun Control Encourage Crime? The Science of Crime Statistics


It is widely believed that modern society is in sharp decline. Crime, especially, is widely considered to be steadily soaring out of control. American politicians frequently join the fray, using the crime issue to assert various political points. For example,

  1. Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton is an advocate of the death penalty, but hopes to address an “unacceptable” increase in incarceration.
  2. In 2007, Republican Jeb Bush declared, “The simple fact is we are not safe. Not in our homes. Not anywhere.” More recently, according to the New York Times, he supports reforming the criminal justice system, fearing that incarceration can harden low-level lawbreakers.
  3. Texas Governor Rick Perry regards the death penalty as appropriate for those who kill police officers or children. He has proposed life imprisonment without parole for certain categories of sex offenses.
  4. Ted Cruz supports the death penalty and opposes gun control, although he favors converting some regulatory crimes into civil offenses.
  5. Marco Rubio argues that the U.S. deserves a criminal justice system that is “fair and just”.
  6. Casino mogul Donald Trump recently declared that Latino immigrants are “bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

Similar rhetoric is not uncommon in other OECD countries, most of which have much lower crime rates than the U.S.

Just the facts, ma’m

As mentioned above, it is widely assumed that crime is increasing, and is prima facie evidence of a breakdown of public order and private morality.

Yet the facts point in quite the opposite direction. Indeed, the latest U.S. crime data has stunned even the most optimistic of observers. According to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, in 2013 (the most recent year for which a full report is available) the violent crime rate is down 4.4 percent from 2012, and the property crime rate is down 4.1 percent from 2012. Similar year-to-year —> Read More