Two new studies released at the beginning of May 2013 have shown that the primary factor in the reduction of the number of gun homicides and violent gun crimes is not gun control, but rather the proliferation of legal gun ownership.
In a study released by Pew Research, violent gun crimes are significantly lower now than they were at their peak during the mid 1990s. Gun homicides declined 49% from 1993 to 2010, despite the fact that population in the United States grew during the same period.
Other violent crimes involving firearms including robberies, assaults, and sex crimes declined 75% in 2011 as compared to 1993. The data also showed that six-in-ten firearms deaths are actually suicides, meaning they are not victims of criminal violence.
According to Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were 31,672 deaths from guns in the U.S. during 2010. Nearly 20,000 of those deaths were gun related suicides.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of Americans are unaware of this decline in firearms violence. The Pew study found that 56% incorrectly perceive that gun crime is actually higher now than it was two decades ago.
The Pew study utilized data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the DOJ National Crime Victimization Survey and the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports.
The same trends are mirrored in a May 2013 Justice Department study from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. According to this study, firearms homicides in 2011 are down 39% since 1993, while non-fatal violent crimes involving firearm declined 69% during the same period.
One interesting aspect of the DOJ study showed that in 2004, state prison inmates were surveyed regarding the source of the firearm they used during the commission of their offense. The survey showed that less than 2% purchased their firearm at a gun show or flea market, 37% obtained a gun from a friend or family member, while 40% obtained their firearm from an illegal source.
There is also clearly no relationship between the number of guns and firearms related violence. In December 2012, the FBI reported a record 2.78 million background checks for firearms purchases. In November 2012, the number of background checks was just over 2 million. The total of FBI background checks for 2012 numbered 19.6 million, an increase of 19% over 2011.
Media attention has not focused on the decline in gun related violence, but rather has emphasized attention on mass shootings like those in Aurora, CO and Newtown, CT. While mass shootings are certainly of great interest and concern to the public, they are a small percentage of all shootings that occur in the United States in a given year.
Fortunately, mass murders, while tragic, are exceeding rare. Mass shootings represent less than 1% of all shooting related homicides.
While many gun control advocates, including Senator Diane Feinstein attempted to use the Newtown tragedy to advance her Assault Weapons Ban proposal, an DOJ analysis of the 1994 ban failed to show that there was a “significant impact” on assault weapons use and failed to support the allegation that large capacity magazines lead to more violent gun crimes.
In all of these studies, there is no data that supports the idea that a reinstatement of any Assault Weapons Ban would have an impact on future tragedies.
While researchers have been unable to reach a clear consensus on exactly why crime rates have declined so dramatically, advocates of gun control have used the events in Newtown to redouble their efforts to pass more limiting legislation, despite compelling evidence that draconian gun laws do not result in a reduction of violent crime.
The City of Chicago has some of the toughest gun laws in America, yet in 2012 there were 512 gun related homicides, an increase of 15% over 2011. The murder rate in Chicago three times the murder rate in the rest of Illinois. Law enforcement also reports that 80% of the murders and shootings in Chicago are gang-related. It would appear that the ‘gun problem’ in Chicago is really more of a ‘gang problem’.
Despite the efforts of gun control advocates and much of the mainstream media to convince the American people that they must surrender some of their Second Amendment rights to reduce gun violence, the data simply does not support that conclusion.
Perhaps these revelations will help the American people recognize the wisdom of Ben Franklin’s words when he said “Those who would give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty or safety.”