If you follow news media closely, you can’t really be blamed for thinking that gun violence and gun-related homicide has gone up dramatically in recent years. With shootings in Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut, America’s “unhealthy” obsession with guns looks like it’s at an all-time high, but does actual data paint a different picture?
According to the BBC (which isn’t really known for making stuff up), gun homicides in the US have actually gone down in recent years. More specifically, they are at a 20-year low. But how is this possible?
Two studies, one performed the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics (a non-partisan group) and the other performed by the Pew Research Center (another non-partisan group) report that gun homicides have fallen sharply since 1993.
The Bureau study said that firearms-related homicides dropped to 11,101 in 2011 from 18,253 in 1993, a reduction of 39 percent. The Pew study said that gun homicides per 100,000 people fell to 3.6 in 2010 from 7 in 1993.
These figures arrive just three weeks after the US Senate rejected stricter gun control proposals amid a new push on the issue born out of the Sandy Hook shooting tragedy. President Obama has led the charge on the issue, promising to make gun reform a top priority in his second term.
Well, that’s just great, but what about gun-related injuries? With violence increasing in US cities like Chicago, the rate of gun violence still has to be on the rise, right? Nope.
Both reports found that the rate of non-lethal gun crimes had fallen significantly over that period as well. The Bureau study found that non-fatal gun crimes dropped a whopping 69 percent, from 1.5 million to just under 500,000.
However, the raw percentage of US homicides has held steady at around 70 percent, implying that the method by which people are murdered hasn’t budged, even though killing overall has dropped.
If this all sounds crazy to you in light of recent events, you’re not alone. Some 56 percent of Americans believe that gun crime is higher, much higher, than two decades ago, with only 12 percent thinking its lower, according to Pew.
Pew’s study also shows that African Americans made up 55 percent of gun homicide victims in 2010, even though they account for 13 percent of the population. White people were 25 percent of gun homicide victims, and Hispanics were 17 percent.
Do these reports have any implications on the gun control debate in America? They don’t say. Bloomberg thinks that the reports, which are consistent with other recent studies, might actually pour cold water on the progressive side of the debate.
But look beyond the politics and the fear-mongering of the mainstream media. We’re living in a nation that is less violent, not more violent. That has to be good news to you no matter what side of the aisle you’re on.
What do you think of the latest studies on gun homicides in the US?
[Image via: Burlingham, Shutterstock]