Urban Gun Crime Partially the Fault of 'The South': AP

Attention, y'all in the South: Urban crime is partly your fault.

You see, if you didn't own so many guns, you wouldn't have so many of them stolen or sold at gun shows. Right now, those evil guns cross state lines and get used to commit crimes in urban areas.

Got that?

I know all of this because the Associated Press's Seanna Adcox, acting as a mouthpiece for the Mayors Against Illegal Guns, has told me so (link is dynamic; 2 AM version saved here for future reference):

Report: South a big exporter of guns used in crime

Ten states are responsible for the bulk of illegal guns that are shipped across state lines for use in crimes, according to a report released Friday by a national coalition of mayors.

About 30 percent of guns traced by federal agents in 2006 and 2007 during crime investigations were bought in a state other than where the crime occurred, said the report by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which largely blamed the transport of illegal guns on states with lax gun laws.

For 2007, the top sources for guns used in crimes elsewhere were Georgia, Florida, Texas, Virginia, California, Ohio, North Carolina, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Alabama.

However, the report's authors placed greater emphasis on per-capita exports of guns, saying that data is a better indicator of lax gun laws. The gun-friendly South accounted for a disproportionate amount of the problem when population size was factored in, according to the report.

West Virginia is the top exporter, per capita, of illegal guns, with 41 traced guns per 100,000 state residents, followed by Mississippi, at 39 guns per 100,000, and South Carolina, at 31. The average national rate is 11 exported guns. Kentucky, Alabama, Virginia, Georgia, Indiana, Nevada, and North Carolina round out the top 10 exporting states, per capita, reads the report, titled "The Movement of Illegal Guns In America: The Link between Gun Laws and Interstate Trafficking."

..... A spokesman for South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who signed a bill removing the one-a-month limit on how many handguns a person can buy, said state laws are not the problem.

"We think we have adequate controls in place," said Joel Sawyer. "Unfortunately, criminals are always going to find a way to circumvent the process." 

The mayors' group, co-founded by (New York Mayor Michael) Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, is made up of more than 340 mayors from across the country, concentrated in the Northeast, Florida and California.

The statistical flaw of the mayors' report as described is obvious, in that there appears to no attempt to correlate per-capita gun ownership with guns crossing state lines per capita. I would think this comparison could easily be made, if there was interest in making it. If, for example, gun ownership per capita in West Virginia is five times the national average, the rate of Mountain State guns used in crimes elsewhere of 41 vs. the national average of 11 would be lower per gun owned. Even if that's not the case, the situation could easily be described as criminals trying to steal guns in southern states. Just as Willie Sutton robbed banks because "that's where the money is," criminals steal guns in southern states because that's where more of them happen to be.

Ms. Adcox's word games are also pretty "clever," even by AP's non-standards. Here are a few but by no means all:

  • On what planet is a stolen gun illegally carried across state lines an "export"?
  • States with high rates of ownership are "gun-friendly," and (not excerpted) someone quoted was described as "ardent."
  • States with high rates of ownership presumptively have "lax gun laws."

I'm also detecting a whiff of regional and/or urban v. rural arrogance on the part of Ms. Adcox and the mayors' group, especially her characterization of "the gun-friendly South." Why isn't the mayors' group described as "gun-hostile"?

Perhaps these mayors -- especially those other than Bloomberg, whose city remains relatively safe thanks to the crime-fighting legacy of Rudy Giuliani (not because of Gotham's strict gun laws) -- should look at the urban cultures, law enforcement and prosecutorial efforts, and sentencing policies in their cities, and see what is going wrong. Last time I checked, folks in the South don't have a lot of influence over any of these.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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