Why Are Law Enforcement and the Media Hyping Crime Fear and Encouraging Concealed Carry?

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There was a strange story in the Independent Record today about more people applying for concealed weapons permits, a story that implied rising crime rates drive the motivation for those who want to carry guns. The story led with a strange, unsourced argument that the world’s violent “climate” is encouraging more people to take up self-defense:

The officials say the world’s violent climate has residents on edge and ready to arm themselves for self-protection.

Specifically, new Broadwater County sheriff Wynn Meehan argued that the increased violence is all over:

Meehan referred to an increase in violence locally, nationally and internationally. “I think it’s just got people on edge,” he added.

I don’t really know what he’s talking about, but the truth is that violent crime rates are dramatically down in the United States. The decrease has been so profound that criminologists and social scientists can’t even figure out what is responsible for the dramatic decline, which has transformed the US:

But over the past 25 years, the tide of crime and violence seemed to simply recede. Crime is about half of what it was at its peak in 1991. Violent crime plummeted 51 percent. Property crime fell 43 percent. Homicides are down 54 percent.

I’m not sure how to measure international rates of violence, but the Montana Department of Justice says that crime is decreasing in our state as well, and the latest report from the Attorney General says that violent crime is not only much lower in Montana than the rest of the nation, but that it’s decreasing in frequency even more rapidly here. Perhaps the Independent Record has some statistics at its disposal to show an anomalous increase in crime in Lewis and Clark, Broadwater, and Jefferson counties, but if that exists, surely there should be a story (or series) explaining it.

All of that makes the position taken by local sheriffs and accepted by the Independent Record without question all the more difficult to understand: why is local law enforcement is tacitly or directly endorsing more guns in the hands of more people to combat imaginary increase in crime, especially when increasing the number of guns do little to prevent crime, as researchers Ian Ayres and John Donohue found in their study:

On the other hand, we find that the statistical evidence that these laws have reduced crime is limited, sporadic, and extraordinarily fragile. Minor changes of specifications can generate wide shifts in the estimated effects of these laws, and some of the most persistent findings — such as the association of shall-issue laws with increases in (or no effect on) robbery and with substantial increases in various types of property crime — are not consistent with any plausible theory of deterrence.

Back in December, Lewis and Clark County Sherriff even encouraged people to get concealed carry permits.

There is no dramatic increase in violent crime in the United States—or our local area—that would justify the fear that seems to be driving people to gets concealed carry permits, and the local law enforcement officers and media owe it to the public to paint an accurate picture about violent crime and safety. When the local newspaper spends an inordinate amount of time printing crime affidavits, though, people naturally assume that crime is getting worse, which only increases their fear. If the reason more people are getting these permits is because of fear of crime, it’s time for local law enforcement and media to let them know the truth, so they have accurate information before making the decision to arm themselves and take on the risk that entails.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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Amoret HinkleyThe Polish WolfBig SwedeKevin D CurtisDon Pogreba Recent comment authors
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Greg Strandberg
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Maybe the reduction in crime is caused by people carrying more guns. After all, no one knows.

Lori Tuck
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Lori Tuck

Good article. Please submit this as a “Your Turn.” Lori

Eric
Guest
Eric

Ever since we elected The Great Leader the American people have been buying record number of guns, and warehouses full of ammunition. Check out this article from Townhall;

http://townhall.com/tipsheet/mattvespa/2015/07/23/confirmed-obama-is-the-best-gun-salesmen-of-the-decade-n2029595

That’s the reason for declining crime.

Greg Strandberg
Guest

Eric, this site doesn’t like that talk.

Pete Talbot
Admin

Increased gun sales can be attributed to people of limited intelligence buying into the GOP message of fear, Eric and Greg.

Greg Strandberg
Guest

We know how Democrats feel about people clinging to their guns and religion.

Pete Talbot
Admin

Do we now, Greg?

Greg Strandberg
Guest

Well, we know Obama said that. I’m not sure who put forth the “people of limited intelligence” comment, besides yourself, of course.

Pete Talbot
Admin

New Year’s resolution: I plan to be less considerate. Goes with the turf.

Anyway, here’s what Obama said in 2008: “They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

Seems pretty accurate to me.

Greg Strandberg
Guest

I’m not sure how comments like Obama’s are going to help Democrats. I’m not sure how comments calling people limited in their intelligence is going to help either.

I bet it’ll help fire up GOPers to get to the polls, however. That’s not good for Democrats.

What is good for Democrats?

Pete Talbot
Admin

“What is good for Democrats?” asks Greg. The Republican clown car, I’m thinking.

Donald Trump, the king of the crappy comments, is leading in the GOP polls. What does that tell you?

And I’m not trying to help people with my comments, either. I’m done with that.

Kevin D Curtis
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Kevin D Curtis

Pete, I prefer using “intellectually incurious” in place of “limited intelligence”, it seems much more accurate to me. I have noticed many of today’s GOP followers choose to be spoon fed their simplistic bumper-sticker “logic” (opinions) while giving very little regard to the actual process of thinking…..It’s not so much that they are dumb, it’s more that they are lazy. Thinking logically does take a little work.

Pete Talbot
Admin

I’m into poor choices of words today, Kevin. What you’re saying is probably more accurate.

Greg Strandberg
Guest

If you want to keep harping on the dangers of guns in 2016, that’s fine. I don’t think it’ll help Democrats nationally, I know it won’t help Democrats in Montana. I’m not afraid of guns, myself. I personally don’t think a lot of concealed carry permit folks are a danger. I don’t think regular gun owners are a danger. I don’t think Obama’s executive orders on guns this week will do much either. I believe that if someone wants a gun, they’ll get it. Why we think making it harder for responsible people to own guns will make us safe… Read more »

Big Swede
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Big Swede

“When the local newspaper spends an inordinate amount of time printing crime affidavits, though, people naturally assume that crime is getting worse, which only increases their fear. “-Don

Should the print media ignore crimes? Frankly, I don’t see a correlation between crime reporting and gun sales. There’s a huge correlation between this President’s agenda and gun sales. Each time he opens his mouth about gun control sales spike.

You’re looking in the wrong places Don.

Greg Strandberg
Guest

Don, I found that abortion statistic months ago. Do you need the link? Here you go: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss6208a1.htm It says that we had 765,651 abortions in 2010, which, if you go by the 2010 population of America, that’s .2% of our people that are affected by this issue. If that bothers you, that’s fine, but reaching your limit with my “willful ignorance” isn’t going to change that. I’m afraid, and again, this is my opinion, that you were angered by my stat. Alas, I suspect my backing it up and explaining it will just inflame you further. I wouldn’t call research… Read more »

Greg Strandberg
Guest

Ah, so now I lost the argument because I had the gall the use a source and leave a link, and then challenge you when you didn’t.

On top of it I’m embarrassing myself.

Interesting.

Well, you have yourself a good night, Don. I look forward to your next post.

The Polish Wolf
Guest
The Polish Wolf

Because hyping crime is a win-win-win for liberals, conservatives, and the media. Any event triggers immense confirmation bias on both sides – so that despite plummeting crime rates, liberals see an ‘epidemic’ of gun violence solvable only by gun control (and confiscation, if you ask the NYT) – hence more donations, more indignation, more acceptance of Bloombergism, while conservatives see an anarchic, crime-ridden (and Godless) society appropriate to their Dirty Harry fantasies, justifying huge profits for gun makers (didn’t Smith and Wesson triple profits or somesuch this year?) and allowing them to push their own agenda in Red States already… Read more »

Amoret Hinkley
Guest
Amoret Hinkley

Actually, the cause of the decrease in violent crime isn’t a total mystery and has nothing to do with how many people are armed. The biggest factor seems to be getting lead out of gasoline and paint. http://www.forbes.com/sites/alexknapp/2013/01/03/how-lead-caused-americas-violent-crime-epidemic/

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