A report released yesterday by the Bureau of Justice Statistics in Washington claims “About 1.4 million firearms were stolen during household burglaries and other property crimes over the six-year period from 2005 through 2010.
“Of the guns stolen each year during burglaries and other property crimes, at least 80 percent, or an annual average of 186,800 firearms, had not been recovered up to six months after being stolen,” the BJS press release states.
That certainly sounds ominous. And it’s what the media and those interested in ratcheting down on the nation’s gun laws will be focused on, as cherry-picking from the report also supports at least two specific goals for that agenda: Using it to support additional laws and to make the case that gun ownership is on the decline.
Perhaps a third observation worth noting is how the report, put out under the auspices of Eric Holder’s Department of Justice, makes a special point of highlighting “About three out of four household property crimes involving stolen firearms occurred in households headed by white non-Hispanic persons,” and that these are “disproportionately” in the rural South.
Those would be the “red states.”
The devil is always in the details, so in this case it’s useful to springboard from the presser directly into the report itself.
If one wanted to write an article based solely on the press release, its readers would never know the very first sentence in the report states “Victimizations involving the theft of firearms declined from 283,600 in 1994 to 145,300 in 2010.”
That’s in spite of the fact that industry reports show firearms sales have been steadily growing in that time period.
“[T]he General Social Survey [headquartered at the University of Chicago] and Gallup poll both show declines in the percentage of households owning firearms during the same period,” some might counter, quoting the report, glossing over a later admission about “lack of precision due to the large standard errors associated with generating estimates from surveys with different sampling methodologies.”
Indeed, “[a]ccording to the GSS, the percentage of households that reported having a gun in the home declined from 46% in 1993 to 32% in 2010,” the report states, then revealing “From December 1993 to October 2010, Gallup polls showed a decline in the percentage of households with guns on the property, from 54% to 41%.”
That’s quite a different spread—they weren’t kidding about “lack of precision.” And it doesn’t account for a related admission found by delving deeper into the report that “between 1994 and 2010, no statistically significant change was observed in the percentage of completed burglaries or other property crimes that involved the theft of at least one firearm…This may suggest that the overall decline in the number of victimizations involving gun theft was not due to a decline in the number of privately owned guns that could be stolen.”
Still, the surveys are both useful to feed the exploitable meme that gun ownership is falling in contrast to widely corroborated evidence saying otherwise, so anti-gun activists and their media sympathizers can be counted on to use it to gin up public support and cajole legislators into thinking the political costs for crossing gun owners is going down.