Crime fears unjustified by crime statistics

You probably know most of the good things about living in Maine, but you may be unaware of one:

We have the lowest crime rate in the nation, according to the latest figures in the 2012 U.S. Census.

Vermont and New Hampshire are close, but Maine's crime rate is still significantly lower. Mainers have about one-tenth of 1 percent chance of being involved in a violent crime (murder, rape, robbery or aggravated assault).

Another way to think about it: There were 24 murders in Maine in 2010, while there were 161 traffic fatalities. Mainers that year were nearly seven times more likely to die in a car crash.

Utah's rate is twice as high and Kansas is four times as high. In South Carolina, with the highest violent crime rate in the U.S., a person is seven times more likely to be involved in a violent crime.

But here's a strange thing about Maine: We have had a 46 percent increase in applications for concealed handgun permits over the last several years. In fact, the state's system for checking backgrounds is now running three months behind schedule and the workers there cannot keep up.

Young people, women, grandmothers are yearning to pack a sidearm when they go to the corner store. This is about as practical as carrying an electric drill.

This is, of course, about more than simply protecting your home and family. Mainers are allowed to keep handguns and rifles at home without a permit. They are also allowed to carry them openly, although few people do.

The thousands of people buying guns and applying for concealed carry permits are afraid of what might happen to them OUTSIDE their homes.

Again, this makes little or no sense in a state with such a low crime rate. It makes even less sense when you realize the vast majority of violent crimes involve people who know each other.

Statistically, a person who buys a gun is much more likely to use it on a friend, relative or family member than anyone else.

So, why such a strong urge to carry a couple of pounds of steel on the hip, under the shoulder or stuffed in a purse?

Maybe it's the recession. Perhaps people fear the unemployed are going to rob them when they go out. Oddly, the property crime rate has gone down in this recession.

More likely it is the news stories about drug-related crimes. Yet property crimes here are also the lowest in the U.S. and have declined significantly over the past 10 years.

But is this really a problem? So what if people walk around for 50 years carrying a gun they never use? Maine already has the second-highest rate of gun ownership and relatively few gun deaths.

But owning a gun is far less dangerous than toting one around every day, as we see in the spike of self-inflicted gun wounds each hunting season.

We should worry about two things:

First, some people carrying guns are itching to use them. Last week in Florida, one of those people apparently tracked down and shot to death a black teenager who was unarmed and apparently minding his own business.

Second, we need to be concerned about complacency. In separate incidents in western Washington state in recent weeks, two children were killed by unattended guns, including the child of a police officer. Another child was seriously wounded.

The last time that happened in our area was in 2009 when a Mexico boy shot himself with a derringer in his grandparents' home.

Perhaps a nation hell-bent on carrying guns will become a safer place, but it's hard to imagine it becoming any safer than Maine already is.

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.

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Steve  Dosh's picture

Crime fears unjustified by crime statistics

†hanks again Rex and the entire LSJ ® editorial staff , 15:40 Monday 12.08.06
" This is about as practical as carrying an electric drill."
/s , Your many , appreciative readers :)
Now over to that - other - paper the

Zack Lenhert's picture

Gun availability and state unintentional firearm death rates

We analyzed data for 50 states over 19 years to investigate the relationship between gun prevalence and accidental gun deaths across different age groups.
Major findings: For every age group, where there are more guns there are more accidental deaths. The mortality rate was 7 times higher in the four states with the most guns compared to the four states with the fewest guns.
Publication: Miller, Matthew; Azrael, Deborah; Hemenway, David. "Firearm Availability and Unintentional Firearm Deaths." Accident Analysis and Prevention. 2001; 33:477-84.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Perhaps we should ban

Perhaps we should ban automobiles for where there are more automobiles there are more accidental deaths related to automobiles; isn’t a bigger problem? Wouldn’t that save more lives?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Your saying Maine's crime

Your saying Maine's crime rate is down causes one to wonder if you read your own paper. A day seldom goes by where the Journal doesn't have a story about a shooting, a stabbing, a robbery, or a drug deal/arrest. Crime may be down if you follow the numbers, but if you're in the streets of L/A after dark,man, it's a war zone.

Zack Lenhert's picture

so we should ALL have guns...

so we should ALL have guns... Then we'll be REALLY safe! No one would ever get shot if every man woman and child had a gun. I know I would feel a lot safer.

 's picture

Sam Colt said it best!

Sam Colt said it best, "Be not afraid of any man, no matter what his size, when danger threatens call on me and I will equalize."

In these tough economic times and with a President that has brought back the race issue, people are more afraid and cautious now. Many are fearful of anti gun rhetoric of the administration and fear if they get a second term an attempt will be made to ban guns. Therefore they want to get them now and be prepared for what they see as chaos ahead. There is much more pessimism today than 5 years ago and that is a factor in the increase in gun sales. I'll make us safer too!

Andrew Jones's picture

Guns aren't the problem,

Guns aren't the problem, people are. Leaving your gun out where a child can get at it is stupid. Having one pointed at yourself or others while it is loaded is stupid.

Also, I'm guessing you're referring to the shooting of Trayvon Martin which happened last month. You neglected to mention that the shooter was part of the neighborhood watch, had called 911, and was being assaulted by Martin before he shot him. Leaving out all the facts to support your editorial is no better than all the news agencies that continue to use a three year old photo to sensationalize the story. Martin was not a 14 year old, he was a 6'3", 140 lb, 17 year old football player.

Zack Lenhert's picture

...and YOUR leaving out that

...and YOUR leaving out that Zimmerman was told by the dispatcher NOT to follow Martin, Martin was unarmed and being followed by a man unknown to him. Neighborhood watch training programs also say that a watchman should NOT be armed, they are supposed to call the police and let the police do their job.

You do NOT know that Martin instigated the confrontation. If I chased you down, started a fist fight with you, and you than gave me a bloody nose, am I justified in killing you? In my opinion no.

Also, not that it has anything to do with justice, but you brought it up... 6'3, and 140? That's a string-bean teenager. I'm 6'0, 165 and I'm skinnier than most.

I'm not saying Zimmerman is guilty, but he SHOULD be arrested and have a fair trial. If he is found not guilty so be it.

Andrew Jones's picture

I mentioned his age, height,

I mentioned his age, height, and weight because I am sick of the media displaying a photo of a 14-year old boy. They also keep referring to Zimmerman as a "white hispanic". They're intentionally stirring the pot here to sell newspapers.

You're right. While I do not "know" for a fact that Trayvon Martin instigated a fight, I do know that an eye witness saw him on top of George Zimmerman, slamming his head into the pavement. This isn't a "get socked in the face and have a bloody nose", his life was in danger. I feel he was justified in the shooting. I realize that there is also a witness didn't see it happen that believes the person yelling for help was Martin. I'm going to take the word of the person that did see it vs. the person that didn't.

That being said, I think both men could have handled the situation a lot better. Martin may have been pissed off because he was a victim of racial profiling, but that does not give him the right to assault someone. Zimmerman could have followed the advice of the 911 dispatcher and not followed the victim.

Until the grand jury says otherwise, Zimmerman can't go to trial because there are no charges. For the time being, all he needs to do now is avoid getting murdered by the NBP.

Now to segway back to the original point: A gun doesn't get up, decide it wants to kill somebody, aim itself at a victim and pull it's own trigger. If you're looking to pin the blame on accidental firearm injury/deaths, look no further then the people that misuse/mishandle their weapons. The editor feels that carrying a firearm is as practical as carrying an electric drill; I guess he doesn't carry his cell phone with him in case his car breaks down, or he gets hurt and needs an ambulance.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Heard on radio today that the

Heard on radio today that the 'new' Black Panthers have a bounty out on Zimmerman.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Yes, if and only if one

Yes, if and only if one applies for an ID and the process is held up for an indeterminate long period of time.

Once you have an ID though, then there should be no impediment to voting – correct?

Moreover, it is more prudent to deal with issues that are occurring than those that are only speculated to occur.

Lastly, if I truly needed to protect myself, a lack of conceal carry permit would not prevent me from doing so. It is always better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Amen to that, Brother.

Amen to that, Brother.

PAUL MATTSON's picture



MARK GRAVEL's picture

Paul, Why be sensible when

Why be sensible when perhaps the real purpose is to inhibit or discourage applicants. Otherwise conceal carry would not require a permit.

Zack Lenhert's picture

Could not the same be said

Could not the same be said for voter I.D. laws...?

but....but, that's different.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

The only justifiable reason

The only justifiable reason one can have for opposing the voter I.D. law is the intent to cheat.

Zack Lenhert's picture

"when perhaps the real

"when perhaps the real purpose is to inhibit or discourage applicants. Otherwise conceal carry would not require a permit."

so according to the pirate's logic, the folks wanting to conceal carry their weapons without getting a permit only want to use their guns for nefarious reasons.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Yes, and that is why conceal

Yes, and that is why conceal carry does little to deter gun violence. Only the honest comply.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

That isn't what I said nor is

That isn't what I said nor is it consisten wwith 'the Pirate's logic'. I would be very supportive of concealed carry without the permit requirement. Similar to what most law abiding folks are doing now.

Zack Lenhert's picture

and I would be supportive of

and I would be supportive of voter rights without requiring an ID. Similar to what most law abiding folks are doing now. You will probably dispute that statement, but you'll have a hard time proving it wrong. If you do not see the fallacy in your logic that's your problem.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Yes, I would dispute it since

Yes, I would dispute it since the correct analog should be comparing needing a voter ID to needing an ID to purchase a weapon. Predicate to action needs an ID in both cases.

Conceal carry is not an ID, it is a permission slip. Perhaps we should require all voters to have permission slips to vote – that would be a matching analog.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

whoa!!! Where's all this

whoa!!! Where's all this hostility coming from?
1. "I'm probably going to dispute that statement". You don't know that; I haven't even responded yet.
2. "But I'll have a hard time proving it wrong." I haven't said yet, whether I disagree or not.
3. "If I don't see the fallacy in my logic, then it's my problem". My logic is fallacious without even having responded, and I'VE got the problem?
You looking for a fight, or are you simply a clairvoyant know-it-all?
For the record, I'm good with conceal carry without a permit, and I'm take it or leave it on the voter I.D., but, hey, I'll bet you already knew all that.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Yes, if and only if one

Yes, if and only if one applies for an ID and the process is held up for an indeterminate long period of time.
Once you have an ID though, then there should be no impediment to voting – correct?
Moreover, it is more prudent to deal with issues that are occurring than those that are only speculated to occur.
Lastly, if I truly needed to protect myself, a lack of conceal carry would not prevent me from doing so. It is always better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

First, I would like to

First, I would like to reiterate Ernest Labbe’s comment below. Since Maine has a relatively high gun ownership rate per capita, that could be one reason for lower violent crime rates.

Second, you are comparing apples to oranges when you cite gun ownership statistics in Maine, but cite gun mishaps from states other than Maine. Compared to Maine gun ownership statistics, Maine has a low number of gun mishaps. But I guess you knew that since you had to pull examples from outside the state of Maine to make your story viable.

Lastly, all the facts in the in last week’s Florida incident are still unclear, so implying that Mr. Zimmerman was itching to use his gun may be a bit premature. You could be right, but we know you don’t know all the facts yet, so perhaps you should refrain from using that information in this context.

PAUL MATTSON's picture

The Sun Journal missed the

The Sun Journal missed the obvious. Maine has the lowest crime rate in the nation because we have the second highest per capita of firearm ownership in the nation. Individuals properly trained to obtain a Maine Concealed Handgun Permit understand in a life threatening situation where seconds count, law enforcement is minutes away at best…

Sun Journal will have a very difficult time finding a situation where a properly licensed Concealed Handgun Permit owner that committed a crime with their handgun.

Zack Lenhert's picture

It's a near miracle that I

It's a near miracle that I have survived the mean streets of L/A this long without a gun.

ERNEST LABBE's picture


Perhaps the crime rate is the result of more people being able to defend themselves. Possibly the thought of getting killed for a few bucks turns some potential thugs off.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

I just can't believe it

I'd be curious how the U.S. Census tabulates their results. Are they based on the actual crime committed, or the conviction rate.
Any one who follows the local court proceedings can see that most cases are dismissed. You see a lot of people in District Court, opting for jury trials. There's more than one reason for that. I've seen one individual with five or six separate arrests for moter vehicle burglary. all charges dismissed. Why? The arresting officer couldn't or wouldn't make the court appearance. Everyone you talk to knows that you have a much better chance of an acquittal in Superior Court. You can read it when ever the sj prints the various court results. Also just what category do they put armed home invasions or CVS robberies in. Not to mention the increase of home burglaries where nothing but controlled prescriptions are stolen. We may have a smaller crime rate then other states, but we have a lot less people than a lot of states. I feel we have just as much crime.

Rex Rhoades's picture

Good question

The Uniform Crime Report information is actually collected and reported by the FBI. Here's what's reported, according to Wikipedia:

"Each month, law enforcement agencies report the number of known index crimes in their jurisdiction to the FBI. This mainly includes crimes reported to the police by the general public, but may also include crimes that police officers discover, and known through other sources. Law enforcement agencies also report the number of crime cases cleared."

Remember, the statistics are per 100,000 population, which equalizes data for large and small states. There are some large states that have relatively low reported crime rates and small states which have high rates.

Thanks for your questions and comments.


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