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Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, says some of New York state’s gun control laws should be scrapped.
The 2013 Secure Ammunition and Firearm Enforcement Act was supposed to reduce gun violence in New York. Collins says there’s no evidence that’s happened.
"Statistics show that violent crimes where a firearm is used have remained static since 2013 in both New York State and Erie County," Collins said in an op-ed in The Buffalo News.
Collins is sponsoring federal legislation to reverse parts of the SAFE Act that regulate rifles and shotguns. He says the law has been an unnecessary burden for gun owners across upstate New York.
But is he right that the number of violent crimes with a firearm has been unchanged since 2013?
For the state as a whole, the numbers don't back up Collins' claim. In 2016, there were 10,007 violent crimes with a firearm reported to police, according to data from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. In 2013, there were 12,235. The percentage of violent crimes with a firearm also fell from 16 percent in 2013 to 13.5 percent in 2016.
Looked at another way, the number of firearm-related violent crimes per New York state resident also has declined. There were 62 firearm-related violent crimes reported for every 100,000 residents in 2013, compared with 50 for every 100,000 residents by 2016.
The number of firearm-related violent crimes has decreased statewide each year since 2012, the first year New York City was included in the data.
The number was already going down outside New York City before the SAFE Act in 2013. There were 5,340 violent firearm crimes reported to police outside New York City in 2008 — the most in the last decade. The count has only increased twice since, in 2012 and 2016.
Erie County data
In Erie County, the trend is different. Violent crimes with a firearm have been on the rise.
Police in Erie County reported 1,154 violent crimes with a firearm in 2016 — more than any other county upstate. That’s up from 1,092 in 2013.
The rate of firearm-related violent crimes has also increased, from 118 of those crimes for every 100,000 Erie County residents in 2013 to 125 in 2016.
A spokesperson for Collins said he based his claim on an article from WKBW, a Buffalo news station.
"The SAFE Act has done little to keep Western New Yorkers safe and has taken away the Second Amendment rights of law abiding citizens," Collins spokesperson Sarah Minkel said in a statement responding to our findings.
WKBW used the same data we did and presented the same results, though the article notes there have been "no major changes in crime rate" since 2013.
Collins said "statistics show that violent crimes where a firearm is used have remained static since 2013 in both New York State and Erie County."
Statistics tell a different story. Violent crimes with a firearm have decreased statewide since 2013 and increased in Erie County. But correlation does not equal causation. Trends show violent crime with a firearm was already going down statewide before the SAFE Act.
We rate his statement Mostly False.
"Another Voice: Rep. Chris Collins on why he wants to repeal the SAFE Act", Rep. Chris Collins in The Buffalo News, Aug. 2, 2017
Email conversation with press staff from Rep. Chris Collins’s office
"Is the New York SAFE Act working?" WKBW, July 31, 2017
County data on violent crime obtained using the DCJS Open Data Portal, Aug. 9, 2017
Statewide data obtained from the Division of Criminal Justice Services
New York City 2016 data obtained from the Division of Criminal Justice Services
Statewide population data obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau
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