Mises Institute: Americans Are Buying Guns in Record Numbers

Ryan McMaken at the Mises Institute writes Americans Are Buying Guns in Record Numbers. The Washington Post Isn’t Pleased. about how rising political instability and violence in the US has led to a record surge in gun sales and especially sales to first time gun owners and how the media is desperately trying to spin this as increased gun ownership causing increased crime.

Social scientists have been trying for many years to blame homicides on the presence of guns. A favorite tool in this quest is the use of studies that show a correlation between gun ownership and crime. These studies are then reported as “evidence” that the presence of guns causes crime.

But there’s always been a problem with this attempt at showing causality between guns and homicides: causality can just as plausibly go the other way. That is, in times and places where the local population feels they are in danger of being crime victims, people are more likely to purchase guns for protection. So, rather than saying “guns cause crime,” we should be saying “crime causes guns.”

New Gun Purchases Soar as Uncertainty and Violence Increase

We’re likely seeing this phenomenon at work now.

In recent months, according to the firearm industry’s trade group National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), Americans have purchased millions of guns:

The early part of 2020 has been unlike any other year for firearm purchases—particularly by first-time buyers—as new NSSF® research reveals millions of people chose to purchase their first gun during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fox News reports:

Gun sales have skyrocketed during the past three months, and a record-breaking 80.2 percent increase in sales was reported in May compared to last year, according to the shooting foundation. April’s data showed a 71.3 percent increase from 2019, and there was an 85.3 percent increase in March, according to information previously released by Small Arms Analytics and Forecasting.

Many new gun owners during this period feared general unrest as a result of the government-mandated lockdowns. Potential first-time buyers still on the fence about buying a firearm in May were perhaps confirmed in their fears by the riots that erupted after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers. Then, in the wake of the riots, serious violent crime appeared to spike. It was widely reported, for instance, that homicides in New York City spiked “21 percent in first six months of 2020.” Crime in other cities increased as well, ranging from a jump of over 200 percent in Nashville to 23 percent in Kansas City, Missouri.

Naturally, seeing these news stories, many potential gun owners are more likely to conclude that they need a gun for personal protection. This is especially true when combined with a perception that police organizations cannot be relied upon to engage in crime prevention and enforcement. And this has indeed been the perception in many places where police have appeared unwilling to intervene in June’s riots.

Many normal people would see these events as an illustration of how gun purchases result from fears over crime and uncertainty.

But now, perhaps predictably, left-wing media organizations like the Washington Post are trying to turn this narrative around: people aren’t buying guns as a reaction to violence and social disarray, the Post insists. All those new gun purchases are what’s causing the violence in the first place.

Says the Post:

Americans purchased millions more guns than usual this spring, spurred in large part by racial animosity stoked by widespread protests over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, as well as anxiety over the effects of the covid-19 pandemic.

That gun-buying binge is associated with a significant increase in gun violence across the United States.

The Post cites two new reports, one from the Brookings Institution and another from the University of California, both of which conclude that the rise in gun purchases has likely caused more “gun violence.”

Note the careful use of language here, though: the gun purchases are “associated” with an increase in gun violence, since causality cannot be established. Indeed, near the bottom of the Post article, the author admits:

The authors [of the Brookings and UC reports] caution that a study of this nature cannot prove causality, particularly at a time of massive social upheaval in a country dealing with an unprecedented public health crisis as well as a nationwide protest movement.

Of course, if one is already committed to the idea that guns cause crime, it makes perfect sense that millions of Americans in early 2020—after passing a criminal background check—will buy guns, and then almost immediately use those guns to commit crimes.

Moreover, it’s unclear that the two studies referenced by the Post article even imply that homicides result from more gun purchases.

The Brookings study, for instance, is more of an op-ed than a study. It’s simply a review of some past events which were followed by surges in gun purchases, including the Sandy Hook and Parkland shootings. This appears to be true indeed, and is a helpful reminder that people do often purchase firearms in light of concerns over personal safety, or at least in light of concerns about future access to firearms.

The UC study is a bit more specific, but even this is far too general to be of any use in concluding that gun purchases lead to violence. Because of data limitations, the UC report, of course, doesn’t establish that the people who bought firearms this year are responsible for any increase in crime that may be occurring. But it’s not even established that surges in gun purchases correlate with surges in crime at the city or neighborhood levels. This is critical, since trends in homicides are not really on a statewide or even metro-wide level. Homicide trends in the US tend to be dominated by homicides in a relatively small number of cities and neighborhoods. For example, the homicide rate in Baltimore is ten times that of the US overall. But this doesn’t mean homicides in Maryland are remarkably high.

So, have firearms purchases surged near the neighborhoods in Chicago, New York, and Kansas City where surges in crime have also occurred? It’s possible, since people bordering the most violent neighborhoods may feel the most at risk. On the other hand, it’s also entirely possible that firearms sales are occurring in places relatively distant from the places with surging homicides. The UC study only appears to give a state-level reading on this. In other words, the study really tells us very little.

The Caldron Pool: UK Police Warn, Preaching the Bible Is a Criminal Offence if Someone Deems it Offensive

From The Caldron Pook, UK Police warn, preaching the Bible is a criminal offence if someone deems it offensive

Police in the UK have warned a Christian street preacher that it’s now a criminal offence to preach the Bible in public if someone deems it offensive.

Joshua Sutcliffe was preaching at Oxford Circus in London when he was approached by an officer of the Metropolitan Police force.

The officer had been called in after a member of the public reported Mr Sutcliffe for saying something they did not agree with.

“Just had a call that someone was offended by something you’ve said,” the officer explained.

“I’m not going to stop you from doing what you do, but if there’s anything offensive–if someone finds something offensive, regardless of what you think, it’s a crime. There can be a crime there.

“It’s an offence if somebody finds something offensive,” the officer added.

During his gospel message “about Jesus’ love and forgiveness for everyone”, Mr Sutcliffe had made mention of 1 Corinthians 6:9, a passage that lists a number of sins, including homosexuality.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMk5NCMQ4Fw&feature=emb_logo

Sultan Knish: Portland is Killing Itself

Daniel Greenfield at Sultan Knish blog has an article up describing how Portland’s progressive policies are destroying a once beautiful city – Escape from Portland. I used to love a trip to Portland — visit awesome bookstore Powell’s, visit one of the many good restaurants like Ox or maybe some of their nice food trucks — but it hasn’t been the same the last few years.

Officials say that although their “no-turn-away shelter strategy” failed spectacularly, they want it to be adopted state-wide and nationally.

It was a big year in Portland where the murder rate rose 18.6%. That was the perfect time for Portland’s progressive politburo to spend over $1 million on unarmed cops armed only with pepper spray.

There was a little bit of excitement when it was learned that their 200 hours of training would include “Taser Orientation” suggesting that they might be allowed to carry tasers. But Mayor Wheeler’s office explained that the weaponless cops weren’t being trained to use tasers, but “how to avoid being tased”…

Homeless crime has become both routine and terrifying. One Portlander described being threatened with a machete on a children’s playground, and it’s taken the city’s crime problem to new levels.

15% of Portland’s violent deaths in 2018 involved the homeless in some way.

Portland property crimes rose 15% in 2017. Its property crime rates easily outpace Boston and Denver, and put it on a par with dangerous cities like Atlanta. Its homeless blight has put Portland on the same path as San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles. Portland’s Downtown Clean and Safe had picked up less than 9,897 used needles in 2015. This year it’s 39,000. Garbage and biohazards have also increased.

Car thefts are up 45% in two years. In Mayor Wheeler’s State of the City address this year, he mentioned a “97 percent increase in stolen vehicle calls” in 5 years. There was also a “64 percent increase in unwanted persons calls and a 32 percent increase in disorder calls”…

Click here to read the entire article at Sultan Knish.

Foreign Policy: The Coming Crime Wars

Foreign Policy recently published an article about future conflicts called The Coming Crime Wars. The article discusses how the number of non-state armed groups (that is, not an official army of a recognized country, but rather some other sort of armed group) is multiplying in civil conflicts around the world. Soldiers in these conflicts are with “drug cartels, mafia groups, criminal gangs, militias, and terrorist organizations” as well as official armies or rebel groups. So far governments are confused about how to deal with this complication.

In the classical view, criminal groups (such as mafias, gangs, and cartels) are not political actors formally capable of waging war. This means they can’t be treated as enemy combatants, nor can they be tried for war crimes. Yet, increasingly, such groups do advance tangible political objectives, from the election of corrupted politicians to the creation of autonomous religious states. What is more, they routinely govern, control territory, provide aid and social goods, and tax and extort money from the populations under their control. They also often collude with corrupt soldiers, police, prison guards, and customs officials to expand their rule. Put succinctly, cartels and gangs may not necessarily aim to displace recognized governments, but the net result of their activities is that they do.

Further, whereas the human cost of typical gang or mafia activity may be contained, the death and destruction that result from today’s crime wars are not. Millions of refugees and internally displaced persons have fled these gray-zone conflicts. But many of those who are dislocated are stuck in limbo, with most of them having been refused asylum, which—as codified in international refugee law, international humanitarian law, and by the International Criminal Court—is typically granted to people fleeing international and civil wars. Governments have typically been reluctant to recognize the dislocated as war refugees, because it would grant legitimacy to the crime wars. Yet with all the civilians killed and maimed, mayors and journalists attacked, families forced to flee genocide and disappearances, the violence generated by crime wars is indistinguishable from that generated by traditional war.

Crime wars are not going away…

This article echoes previous writings of authors like David Kilcullen who in Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla discusses some of the same issues. If you’ve done an area study for your location, you probably tried to identify local criminal groups or cartel activity. If this type of activity is having in civil disturbances around the globe, you can count on it coming to the US — if it isn’t already here.

The Pentagon made a video to highlight some of these issues as well, though it mostly discusses the difficulties in megacities.

Prosser Area Thefts/Burglaries, Apr. 6, 2018

LVA members have reported and Prosser Police have confirmed an unusual number of burglaries and thefts in the Prosser area overnight. Thefts mainly appear to be from unlocked vehicles, RVs, and trailers as well as unsecured items such as bicycles, but there have been break-ins as well. Be on the lookout for suspicious persons. Lock up your vehicles and outbuildings.