Montana Politics

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

Credit Wikimedia Commons
Shares

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.

Join a discussion of this (and all of our post) at our Facebook community page.

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.

52 Comments

Click here to post a comment
      • Yeah, we tend to like truth and logic.

        Why in the world are guns sales high? It couldn’t have anything to do with the NRA telling its members every two weeks that the bad black man is going take their guns, could it? Or the media hyping crime?

        Logic is hard.

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

            • 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.

              • 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?

              • “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.

      • 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.

  • 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 is beyond me.

    I guess I’m not a good Democrat as I don’t think gun control is an issue. I do think it’s a detractor issue drummed up by the corporate media so the political parties bicker and get nothing done, much like abortion.

    You said yourself at the beginning of this article: violence is down. That’s despite gun sales going up.

    How do you apply your logic to that?

    It seems to me that you’re saying the decrease in violence is unknown, but it certainly couldn’t be due to increased gun ownership.

    I guess that must be your belief.

    You can believe whatever you want, but that doesn’t mean others will. Having a platform to get your message out is a good way to convince others. I’m not sure how effective that is for you, however.

    I’m not convinced, and snide remarks or browbeating don’t really convince me either. Actually, I find that kind of stuff turns people off.

    Considering you’re a debate teacher, Don, I thought you could do a better job. Usually you just get angry and knee-jerk, however, if you don’t just shut down the conversation entirely.

    Of course, those are my opinions.

    • Could you please lists all the other “detractor” issues for us, Greg? I would guess women who value reproductive freedom would disagree with your assessment that it’s not an important issue, but we’d all appreciate you telling us what really matters. Gun control and abortion are off the table. What else?

      And, on a broader question, you have this strange fascination with this victimhood argument about not being “a good Democrat.” Are you one? In what way are you a Democrat? You ran for office as one, but since then, what would suggest you are one? It’s fine if you’re not. I just don’t understand why you feel people are questioning whether you are a good one. I think most of us assume you’re not. Are we wrong?

      • Other detractor issues often include things like the Cosby case, which I saw NBC news lead off their broadcast for 6 minutes with the other night.

        For abortion, we know that about 0.2% of the population of the country is affect by this issue. I’m sure some women will disagree with that number, or how important that issue is.

        Other issues off the table often include the 10,000 children that cross our borders this year, and how we’ll pay for them. The national debt is an issue we don’t like to talk about.

        I’m not sure I’m a Democrat. I disagree with many of their stances and approaches. Since I care about poor people, I think that’d qualify me as more of a Democrat than a Republican.

        I don’t know if you’re wrong. Again, I think it comes down to belief.

        Were there any other questions you wanted me to answer?

        • You know that 21% of pregnancies end in abortion, right? I doubt that your small percentage accounts for that. So you might want to rethink that one.

          You’ll have to point me to Democratic blogs and operatives using the Cosby case to distract from important political issues, as I’ve missed that.

          So what else? Guns, abortion, Cosby, immigrant children (I think), are off the table? What else are Democrats and the corporate media using to divert attention from what Greg Strandberg knows really matters?

            • I have someone who suggests he knows what issues matter and which ones don’t right here, and this is a unique opportunity to find out why abortion and guns shouldn’t be discussed by Democrats. You certainly haven’t dealt with the premise of my post, so let’s take advantage of your expertise.

              What else should Democrats stop talking about, in your considered and expert opinion? It might help me do a better job writing here.

              • What is the premise of your post? If it’s that the media is drumming up a fear, which in turn causes people to buy guns…so what?

                Who cares if people are buying guns? Crime is down. Violent crime deaths are down.

                Personally, I don’t feel that plays into your narrative that guns are a big problem, however. Again, I don’t view guns as a problematic issue.

                If someone were to ask me which issues Democrats should stop talking about, I’d say none.

                I would suggest they not spend so much time talking about some of the items I already listed in a previous comment.

                If that bothers you, I’m sorry. You have open comments so people can say what they think.

                That’s what I did.

                • Well, research is hard.

                  Despite the fact that violent crime is down, gun deaths are increasing. So when law enforcement and the media scare people and then encourage them to buy guns, more people die of suicide and by accident. That’s bad. The media telling us a narrative that’s not true is bad. Law enforcement telling us that violent crime is up when it’s not is bad.

                  So how much can we talk about abortion and guns? I’d just like a frame of reference here.

                • Homicides are down 54%, you said so yourself.

                  Don, what’s really bothering you?

                  Personally, I feel that nothing I say is going to make you happy. You’re free to talk about anything you want, as much as you want. You know that.

                  If you want to keep asking me what you can or can’t talk about, that’s fine. I don’t feel that will get you anywhere.

                  Where is it you want to go?

                • You know what upsets me? Willful ignorance. I’ve reached my limit with it. It literally takes seconds of time spent searching to understand these facts, like the one about abortion. Instead, it’s easier to just speculate and opine with bothering to do any research. It’s absurd. And at the root of much of what is wrong with our democracy, to be honest. It makes it pretty easy for the elite who have the political and economic system rigged in their favor when so many people are not only so badly informed, but seemingly proud of it.

                  You’re aware that suicide and accidental deaths are not homicides, right? That those are different things? I can walk you through this if you’d like, but I don’t think it will make a difference. If you’re upset that I am responding to your argument here, one that started, I might add, with a childish personal shot about this site, I’m not sorry.

                • You know what upsets me? Willful ignorance. I’ve reached my limit with it. It literally takes seconds of time spent searching to understand these facts, like the one about abortion. Instead, it’s easier to just speculate and opine with bothering to do any research. It’s absurd. And at the root of much of what is wrong with our democracy, to be honest. It makes it pretty easy for the elite who have the political and economic system rigged in their favor when so many people are not only so badly informed, but seemingly proud of it.

                  You’re aware that suicide and accidental deaths are not homicides, right? That those are different things? I can walk you through this if you’d like, but I don’t think it will make a difference. If you’re upset that I am responding to your argument here, one that started, I might add, with a childish personal shot about this site, I’m not sorry.

              • “Who cares if people are buying guns?” says Strandberg. I do. The families in San Bernardino, Colo. Springs, Roseburg, Charleston, Chattanooga, Isla Vista, Newtown … probably do, too.

  • “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.

    • That’s just it. Except in exceptional circumstances, they’re not reporting on crime. They run mug shots and print arrest reports, but rarely followup with any reporting.

      I think it’s far more likely that the NRA and other gun organizations are driving gun sales than either the media reports or comments by the President. It’s a money maker for them, and they know it.

      • The NY Times and other major newspapers in the largest markets are pro gun control. You could say the same for all the main steam media outlets. I don’t see the Times doing anything to promote gun sales.

  • 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 that finds facts that can be backed up to be “willful ignorance,” but that’s just me.

    • Here’s a mystery about women: they are capable of becoming pregnant for more than one year of their lives. In fact, almost 1 in 3 American women will have an abortion in their lifetime, and half will have an unintended pregnancy. And the assault on women’ reproductive freedom is much more significant than simply the number of abortions. So to dismiss that as an issue is almost absurd caricature of male privilege.

      Or willful ignorance. Your choice.

      • 1 in 3 American women will have an abortion in their lifetime, huh? Where are you getting that number? That seems incredibly high to me. I’m sorry, but you’re going to need to back that one up for me, as I don’t believe it.

          • I could do that, but kind of like chess, it’s your move in the debate. If you want to throw a number like that out without backing it up, don’t be surprised when people don’t believe you.

            When you insist I do my own research to make your point, I’m sorry, but your point really begins to slip, your credibility as well.

            Time to close the comments yet?

            • I would probably try to walk away from this embarrassment were I you. I’m off to spend time with people in the reality-based community, but I hope you can regale us with more tales of male privilege while I am gone.

              Seriously, it’s the first hit in Google.

  • 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.

    • I’ll leave it to others to determine who won this debate. Were I still competing or coaching, though, I’d be sure how most judges would have seen it. 🙂

  • 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 sympathetic to concealed carry, open carry, and the like. And the media? Gets a lot more clicks with crime stories (or stories detailing specific locales, like Baltimore, where crime has risen, counter to the national trend).

/* ]]> */