Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Exporting Crime?

Officials in Canada are blaming the United States for recent increases in violent crime. A CNN article states, "Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin and Toronto Mayor David Miller warned that Canada could become like the United States after gunfire erupted Monday on a busy street filled with holiday shoppers, killing a 15-year-old girl and wounding six bystanders -- the latest victims in a record surge in gun violence in Toronto ... 'It's a sign that the lack of gun laws in the U.S. is allowing guns to flood across the border that are literally being used to kill people in the streets of Toronto,' Miller said. Miller said Toronto, a city of nearly three million, is still very safe compared to most American cities, but the illegal flow of weapons from the United States is causing the noticeable rise in gun violence. 'The U.S. is exporting its problem of violence to the streets of Toronto,' he said. Miller said that while almost every other crime in Toronto is down, the supply of guns has increased and half of them come from the United States."

Regions with strict gun control legislation often blame neighboring areas for "exporting crime" when the neighboring areas have fewer restrictions on firearms. They cite that the guns used to commit crimes often come from areas where firearms are less restricted. The idea is not new. In 2003, a group calling themselves "Americans for Gun Safety" issued a report stating that Georgia was exporting firearms used to commit crimes in other states. The report included, among other things, a list of the "top ten crime gun exporting states," alleging that:

"Of the 109,870 crime guns traced by BATF in 2001, 36,828 (33.5%) were originally purchased in one state and used in crime in another. The top ten crime gun export states in 2001 were:
1. Virginia – 2,489 crime gun exports
2. Georgia – 2,428
3. California – 2,228
4. Florida – 2,048
5. Texas – 1,851
6. Mississippi – 1,772
7. Ohio – 1,697
8. Indiana – 1,684
9. North Carolina – 1,454
10. Alabama – 1,301
Of these leading crime gun exporting states, only California and North Carolina require criminal background checks for all handgun and assault rifle sales at gun shows. In fact, on average the states that have failed to close the gun show loophole are the source of 53.4% more crime gun exports than states that have closed this loophole. In a published federal report, BATF indicated that gun shows were the second leading source of firearms recovered in illegal gun trafficking investigations. This finding is borne out in the raw data from 2001, which show that almost none of the top crime gun exporting states require criminal background checks for unlicensed firearms sales at gun shows."
(Note: I would be reluctant to take the statistical evidence presented above as fact. The report states that criminal background checks are not required at gun shows, a statement which is blatantly false. Contrary to the "gun show loophole" myth, it is federally mandated that all engaged in the business of selling firearms call the FBI prior to every sale, regardless of whether the sale is from a store or a gun show. The FBI runs an instant criminal background check and authorizes the sale.)

It is not areas with less gun control that have more crime. Instead, we see a flow of crime towards areas with fewer guns. Why?

Contrary to what many proponents of gun control believe, there are significant positive externalities from residing in an area with many gun owners, particularly when individuals are permitted to carry firearms concealed from view. Perhaps your .45 clashes with your outfit one day, perhaps it is inconvenient for you to carry a gun with you everywhere, or perhaps you hate guns and would never dream of owning one. A criminal has no way of knowing that you are unarmed.

In Virginia, carrying handguns openly is legal and carrying them so that they are concealed and accessible is legal with a concealed carry permit. In Washington, D.C., neither is legal. If we compare the crime statistics between Washington, D.C. and Fairfax County, VA, we see that crime is much higher in D.C. than in Virginia. In 2000, there were two murders reported in Fairfax County, with a population of nearly 1 million. In the same year, 239 murders were reported in the District of Columbia, with a population amounting to less than 600,000.

The United States is not exporting crime to Canada, nor is Virginia exporting crime to D.C. Instead, it is the gun control legislation in Canada and D.C. that produces helpless targets on which criminals prey.

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