Since President Obama wants us to have a “national conversation” about gun control, I hope it’s not amiss to add some data to the chit-chat. The Sacramento Bee reports that “gun deaths and injuries have dropped sharply in California, even as the number of guns sold in the state has risen, according to new state data.” To be specific:
Dealers sold 600,000 guns in California last year, up from 350,000 in 2002, according to records of sale tallied by the California Attorney General’s office. During that same period, the number of California hospitalizations due to gun injuries declined from about 4,000 annually to 2,900, a roughly 25 percent drop, according to hospital records collected by the California Department of Public Health.
Firearm-related deaths fell from about 3,200 annually to about 2,800, an 11 percent drop, state health figures show. . . .
The number of California injuries and deaths attributed to accidental discharge of firearms also has fallen. The number of suicide deaths involving firearms has remained roughly constant.
The Bee says that “most of the drop in firearm-related injuries and deaths can be explained by a well-documented, nationwide drop in violent crime.” As noted, though, the number of accidental deaths has also decreased and the number of suicides involving firearms hasn’t risen.
It may be true that increased gun sales aren’t driving the number of deaths and injuries from guns down. But the burden is on gun control advocates to show that increased possession of guns is driving the number of deaths and injuries up. I haven’t seen such evidence.
The statistics cited by the Bee don’t speak to the effect of increased firearm possession on types of crime such as robbery, burglary, and rape. Economist John Lott has long argued that wider gun ownership means less crime.
Lott’s findings are hotly disputed by the left and it is not the purpose of this post to evaluate that debate. My point for now is that Lott’s argument that gun ownership deters crime is plausible enough, at least in certain contexts, that it must be part of any legitimate “national conversation” on gun control.
In any event, to answer Obama’s question, no, we’re probably not going to be able to have what can pass as a true national conversation.