A study performed by Virginia Commonwealth University professor Thomas R. Baker indicates gun-related violence has fallen steadily since 2006 in the Old Dominion. Baker's research compared state crime data from 2006 through 2011 with gun-dealer sales estimates obtained from the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The data compiled by Baker, who specializes in research methods and criminology theory, shows the number of gun purchases soared 73 percent in the six-year study period, while gun-related violent crimes fell 24 percent.
Virginia State Police statistics on criminal-background checks indicate the estimated number of gun purchases rose to 420,829 in 2011, compared to 243,251 in 2006. The number of gun-related crimes in Virginia dropped to 18,196 in 2011 from 23,431 in 2006.
Baker said his data contradicts the premise that more guns lead to more crime—in Virginia and elsewhere.
"While there is a wealth of academic literature attempting to demonstrate the relationship between guns and crime, a very simple and intuitive demonstration of the numbers seems to point away from the premise that more guns leads to more crime, at least in Virginia," Baker said.
Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, said whether gun-related violent crimes are committed depends on who possesses the firearms.
"As long as it's going into the hands of people like you or me, there's not going to be a problem," Van Cleave said, describing the lawful purchase of firearms in Virginia. "Criminals are going to continue to get their guns no matter what."
Not surprisingly, Baker's study and conclusions were met with skepticism by anti-gun organizations and gun-control advocates.
"Decreasing crime rates are a function of a lot of things," Delegate David J. Toscano, (D-Charlottesville), a staunch gun-control advocate, told the University of Virginia newspaper. "All the studies indicate that the rise and fall of the crime rate has very little to do with gun purchases."