Murder in Missouri: A Quick Followup

Murder in Missouri: A Quick Followup

Ealier this week I highlighted the results of a new study of the murder rate in Missouri: After the state dropped its permitting requirement for handgun purchases in 2007, the murder rate rose. I said -- breathlessly, apparently -- that while I'm skeptical the law could cause as big an effect as the authors claim, and while the results could certainly be a fluke, the crime patterns in the state are striking.

Over at Fox News, John Lott accuses the study of cherrypicking Missouri from other states that have changed their gun laws over the years. Fair enough. But he also makes this rather shocking claim:

While it is true that the murder rate in Missouri rose 17 percent relative to the rest of the U.S. in the five years after 2007, it had actually increased by 32 percent during the previous five years. The question is why the Missouri murder rate was increasing relative to the rest of the United States at a slower rate after the change in the law than it did prior to it. Missouri was on an ominous path before the law was ended.

Simply looking at whether murder rates were higher after the law was rescinded than before misses much of what was going on. Most likely, getting rid of the law slowed the growth rate in murders.

Here is a graph of the ratio of Missouri's murder rate to the overall U.S. rate (this is using the raw data I pulled from the FBI; Lott used a different method but his numbers are basically similar):

This graph tells the same story I told in my prior post: After years of relative consistency (once national trends are taken into account), Missouri's rate rose after 2007.

However, the year 2003 saw a dip in Missouri's murder rate that immediately disappeared. That is the year Lott is using as the beginning of his five-year period.

Robert VerBruggen is editor of RealClearPolicy. Twitter: @RAVerBruggen

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