Americans went on binges buying guns and ammunition in early 2009, worried that a radical leftist president and Democrat-dominated Congress would violate their Second-Amendment rights to keep and bear arms. The effects? Less murder, robbery, rape, and property crime, according to an FBI report released Monday. This gives the young president and Democrat Congress at least one proud but unintended accomplishment for which they'll never claim credit.
Indeed, gun buyers were out in droves in late 2008 and early 2009. While it's easy to infer that increased gun ownership figures align precisely with the drop in crime in the same calendar period, you won't see that headline in the New York Times, despite their penchant for such inferences about increases in crime coinciding with increasing "guns on the street."
The gun-buying started shortly before, and then took off after, Obama's election. The Toronto Star reported a 15% increase of 108,000 more FBI background checks in October 2008 than during the same month in 2007. People were already anticipating the dire consequences of an Obama victory. Then, in November 2008, the number of FBI background checks on applicants buying guns spiked 42% from the previous year. The FBI performed 12.7 million background checks in 2008, compared to 11.2 million in 2007, a 13% increase. More evidence of rampant gun-buying loads up in the states. Through June 2009, the Texas Department of Public Safety received a monthly average of 12,700 applications for concealed handgun licenses, up 46% from the average in 2007. Even the New York Times noted how gun sales were up in 2009; in a June story, it focused on its less sophisticated neighbors in New Jersey. Even in liberal Massachusetts, gun permits surged 15% over the last two years (after falling several years before that).
While background checks and applications for concealed handgun licenses don't directly equate to the number of new guns on the street -- some applicants are refused, and applications can include multiple guns at the same time of purchase -- the numbers do indicate that more law-abiding Americans had new or enhanced arms in the first six months of 2009. Most criminals don't subject themselves to background checks.
(This is a good place to note that "new guns on the street" is just a liberal scare cliché we should not carelessly adopt. These statistics indicate the real dynamic: gun purchases and concealed licenses acquisitions are made predominantly by law-abiding citizens taking their guns home with them from the store, for self-defense, hunting, and target-shooting purposes.)
But shouldn't more guns equate to more murders and other violent crime? Only if you live in liberal never-never land.
That certainly has not been the case in early 2009. Guns are purchased so that good people can protect themselves against bad people. And moreover, self-protection is a basic human right, despite the fact that our new wise Latina Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor couldn't bring herself to acknowledge that this summer. The newspapers west of the Hudson River are chock full of stories in which law-abiding citizens protected themselves by using guns. And these are just the incidents that are reported. The Armed Citizen blog does a great job of capturing these stories in their raw form, and every thinking American needs to make his own inferences about the value of guns in these situations: They prevent people from becoming statistics. Go through the news reports compiled on the Armed Citizen blog and make your own count of people who refused to become statistics. For instance, in May, eleven students in Atlanta avoided becoming murder statistics thanks to the bravery of one among them who had a gun in his backpack. He used it to kill one robber and injure another. Chillingly, the news reports describe how the robbers were counting their bullets to make sure they had enough to kill their victims. One of the robbers was about to rape a woman as well. That's at least thirteen fewer violent crimes (murder, rape, robbery) that did not need to be included in the FBI's crime report for the first half of 2009.
As 2009 winds down, the Democratic Party deserves an off-handed "thank you" for inspiring more law-abiding citizens to purchase weapons and protect themselves from bad people, at least in the first half of the year.
But even while giving them that tribute, it's important to reflect that the only direct result of their gun control efforts in the past -- the Clinton administration's regulation forbidding U.S. military personnel from carrying personal firearms -- resulted in the deaths of thirteen people and an unborn infant in Fort Hood.
Sadly, those deaths will add to an increase in the second half of 2009's statistics -- and renewed calls for gun control legislation, to be sure.