Gun Control: AP Blames NRA for Violent Crime

A recent Associate Press article notes that the preliminary FBI crime report for 2005 indicates a rise in violent crime. Quoting a college criminal justice professor, the article claims the increase is due to government’s waning support of law enforcement. Even more interesting is their attempt to link this with the National Rifle Association’s increased political power:

Criminal justice experts said the statistics reflect U.S. complacency in fighting crime, a product of dramatic declines in the 1990s and the abandonment of effective programs that emphasized prevention, putting more police officers on the street and controlling the spread of guns.

“We see that budgets for policing are being slashed and the federal government has gotten out of that business,” said James Alan Fox, a criminal justice professor at Northeastern University in Boston. “Funding for prevention at the federal level and many localities are down and the (National Rifle Association) has renewed strength.”

The FBI report only includes about 80% of the entire U.S. population, so results may be skewed: it covers slightly less than 250 million people, while the US population was 296 million. (The 2004 FBI report was based upon a population of over 293 million.) Second, the report notes only the number of incidents, not the rate of occurrence within the population, which grew nearly one percent last year: this adjusts rates downwards. Finally, keep in mind that the FBI revises their crime data the year after first reporting it. For example, the 2003 report noted there were 1,381,259 offenses, while the 2004 report revised the 2003 number to 1,383,676. Taking these points into consideration, this article is premature in its pronouncement.

The AP article implies that the Bush administration has done nothing to control crime, reinforcing its message that the President caters to the NRA rather than fulfilling his obligations to the American People:

Violent crimes peaked at 1.9 million in 1992 and fell steadily through the end of that decade. The number has been relatively stable for the past six years.

The FBI reports that the annual number of violent crimes dropped 10.9% during its last six reporting years, while the rate dropped 18%. More to the innuendo, the number of violent crimes dropped 4.1% during the first four years of the Bush administration, while the rate dropped 8.1%. The AP statement is misleading and untrue.

The Story Behind the Story

Professor Fox claims the Clinton administration did something about crime, while Bush has not. But it turns out that Fox used to be a significant contributor to the Clinton administration, having participated in:

…White House meetings with President and Mrs. Clinton and Vice President Gore on youth violence, private briefings to Attorney General Reno on trends in violence, and a presentation for Princess Anne of Great Britain. He served on President Clinton’s advisory committee on school shootings…

We noted in a recent paper Clinton’s poor record in enforcing federal laws designed to imprison violent felons who use guns to commit crime. Instead, he focused on “putting more police officers on the street and controlling the spread of guns.” This is a recipe for reduced liberty. (Also here and here.)

Fox’s Own Statistics Prove Concealed Carry Works

Professor Fox’s personal site links to his Bureau of Justice Statistics page at the U.S. Department of Justice. Using Fox’s own statistical compilation on justifiable homicide (JH), we find that law enforcement is rarely there to stop an attack on a citizen, but that most law enforcement officers’ (LEO) JH are due to criminal attacks on LEO, justifying self-defense. Between 1976 and 2002, only 2% of LEO JH occurred during a criminal attack on a citizen, while 49.8% occurred during attack on LEO. Fox’s statistics also show that 27.2% of citizen JH was self-defense; 61.5% came while disrupting crime, including defense of others at risk of forcible felonies, compared to 23.6% LEO JH disrupting crimes in progress.

Fox’s own data supports concealed carry: using justifiable homicide as an indicator, citizens were more likely than police to be present to stop violent crimes in progress. Keep in mind that most defensive shootings are not fatal: Kleck and Gertz found that of all defensive gun uses, 8.3% wounded or killed the criminal attacker, and only 15.6% actually fired the gun. This means that many more crimes were averted by an armed citizen that did not result in JH. The only way to change that fact is for government to put “more officers on the street” and disarm you in order to “control the spread of guns.”

Is the NRA Anti-Law Enforcement?

Fox’s implication that the NRA supports anti-LEO policies runs counter to NRA history. The NRA established a law enforcement training program in 1960, and has continuously upgraded it to provide a variety of trainings for law enforcement officers. Furthermore, law enforcement professionals, including police chiefs and FBI agents, have either run the program or had very significant influence on its development, and its mission is to enhance officers’ safety:

Our ultimate goal is the saving of lives and prevention of injuries through the safe, effective, and timely use of the law enforcement firearm. This is done by providing the law enforcement firearm instructor with the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to teach their students how to “WIN A LETHAL ENCOUNTER!”

Kayne Robinson, elected NRA’s president in 2003, retired as Assistant Chief of Police in Des Moines, Iowa and was past President of the Iowa Association of Chiefs of Police. NRA supports President Bush’s Project Safe Neighborhoods, a program aimed at putting armed, violent criminals in federal prison where parole is not an option. In the first three years of the Bush administration, prosecution of federal gun law violators increased 67%. A recent study of the effectiveness of this program estimated that because of the longer prison sentences in federal court, numerous crimes were not committed–in Kansas alone–by habitual offenders because they were removed from society by longer sentences.

Our county district attorney, Bryan Goertz, describes his experience with Project Safe Neighborhoods as favorable. The U.S. attorney offered him assistance for particularly violent offenders who used or possessed a firearm during the crime under indictment. As a result, he has declined to prosecute some local cases in which the Feds had concurrent jurisdiction with the state, which clears the way for the Feds to pursue the case in federal court. Benefits include:

· No parole in federal prison;

· It is another resource to help communities remove the worst offenders;

· Rather than diminishing local control, it enhances the team approach of law enforcement in protecting our communities.*

Conclusion

A professor with a political ax to grind is quoted as an objective authority. A media outlet beats the drum of fear by insinuating that violent criminals are being cosseted by our president at the behest of the NRA, in the finest tradition of the media’s bias against guns and conservative causes. Welcome to the election season!

* Interview with Bryan Goertz, Bastrop County District Attorney, June 13, 2006.

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