Dropping the Hammer: Choose Your Own Crime Stats

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This is an excellent, simple little video that backs up what has been discussed at Independent Journal Review before: despite all appeals to emotion, gun control laws do not reduce crime.

If conservatives want to persuade more people to their side, they should get hipster-looking data nerds to do informational videos like the one above, just to get the Starbucks set to think twice before shooting off their mouths about things they know little about. It is doubtful that many faux-sophisticated progressives, for example, know that hammers (and other blunt objects) are involved in more homicides each year than rifles.

[Click here to read "9 Must-See Gun Control Statistics."]

It is also doubtful the commentator in the video above is a conservative, but more like a rational moderate. One could take serious qualms with the fairly socialistic argument that poverty causes crime. As was recently pointed out a while back on The New Republic, and it certainly still holds truecrime rates across the board are down, despite a deepening recession and record poverty.

The week before, San Diego had seen four bank holdups in a single day. Criminologists wondered if the holiday spree was the first sign of a looming crime wave in recession-battered America. Take an uptick in poverty and economic misery, toss in budget cuts to police departments across the country, and that should be a blueprint for chaos—right?

Except, as it turns out, the exact opposite occurred. According to FBI statistics, crime rates went down across the board in 2009. Way down. Murder, rape, robbery, assault, auto theft—plummeted, one and all. Then, this week, the FBI released preliminary data for the first six months of 2010, and again the same pattern emerged. Violent crimes and property crimes alike have been falling in every region of the country. What gives? Have experts just completely misunderstood what causes people to commit crimes?

It turns out the poverty-causes-crime narrative, popular on the left and predictably conducive to the forced redistribution of wealth, is just another well-worn canard. There are many variables that affect crime rates. Asserting that high poverty rates are associated with high crime rates is a lazy stereotype that doesn’t hold true in many cases, both domestically and internationally.

And let it be known that the most likely way to reduce poverty, as the UN’s Millennium Report begrudgingly confessed, is the spread of free enterprise. A Yale Global report put it beautifully:

These factors are manifestations of a set of broader trends – the rise of globalization, the spread of capitalism and the improving quality of economic governance – which together have enabled the developing world to begin converging on advanced economy incomes after centuries of divergence. The poor countries that display the greatest success today are those that are engaging with the global economy, allowing market prices to balance supply and demand and to allocate scarce resources, and pursuing sensible and strategic economic policies to spur investment, trade and job creation. It’s this potent combination that sets the current period apart from a history of insipid growth and intractable poverty.

So the data are clear: if you want to be compassionate and lower poverty rates, stop looking to the government and promote free enterprise. If you want to maintain lower crime rates and prevent authoritarian government, maintain an armed civilian populace.

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