The FBI has issued its Preliminary Annual Uniform Crime Report for 2011. That was Iowa’s first year as a “shall issue” weapons permits state. The number of nonprofessional carry permits increased from 39,397 in 2010 to 94,516 through November 2011. Advocates and opponents of the new law will want to know if their predictions came true.
“I don’t see how this could do any good,” stated one police officer last year. “There are going to be some shootings because of this,” said another officer speaking to Dean Close of the Vinton newspaper. One letter-writer warned, “A gun in hand […] messes with the head and mind, just as a muscle car does. Possibilities and actions are enhanced, and restraints on anger and all else that is upsetting are dwarfed and become ineffective.” Predictions of “wild west shootouts” by lawfully armed yokels were rampant.
Calmer heads predicted: “A year or two from now, when the sky doesn’t fall and the bodies aren’t stacked in the streets like cordwood, most Iowans can go back to not remembering that we have a carry law.”
Who was closer to being right? Unfortunately the FBI report won’t answer everything because it is just the abbreviated preliminary report, and we shouldn’t ascribe too much significance to any one year uptick or downtick anyway.
The report indicates that violent crime dropped by 4% nationwide in 2011, it’s fifth consecutive yearly drop. Murder dropped by 1.9% nationally. Violent crime dropped by 4.9% in the “Midwest Region,” while murder actually rose by 0.6% in the Midwest. Some experts are predicting that while national crime rates are at historic lows, they may have bottomed out, as evidenced by an upward spike late in 2011.
The only Iowa-specific data I could find was in the report’s “Table 4,” listing crime rates for cities with populations over 100,000. It listed Cedar Rapids, Davenport and Des Moines.
Murder remained the same in Cedar Rapids with 2 in both 2010 and 2011. In Davenport murders rose from 2 in 2010 to 5 in 2011. In Des Moines murders rose from 5 to 8. Thankfully those numbers remain relatively low and the uptick apparently occurred all across the Midwest. Opponents of the new law will have a hard time laying this statistical blip at the feet of the shall issue law since none of the murders were committed by permit holders. (If a permit holder ever did commit murder it would be the lead news story for a week and probably make the national news.)
All three cities saw a decrease in total violent crime from 2010 to 2011. Cedar Rapids dropped from 386 in 2010 to 358 total violent crimes in 2011. Des Moines had a negligible drop from 1,084 to 1,069 total violent crimes. Davenport saw a significant drop from 868 to 652 violent crimes.
I don’t think these three will be isolated examples when the FBI’s complete report comes out later on. I know that the Waterloo P.D. reported that city’s “violent and property crime” was down by 12% in 2011 and that county’s sheriff reported rural crime was down as well. I would imagine there are similar reports elsewhere in the state. Anecdotally, I know that I don’t have to execute three to five second rushes across my local Walmart parking lot to avoid bursts of gunfire from all the weapons permit holders.
At the very least, the shall issue law definitely has not led to the “blood in the streets” predictions of its harshest critics. At best, it may have helped to push Iowa’s already low crime rates a little lower. We’ll have to wait for the full report to see for sure.