Wed, 05/08/2013 – 9:02am | posted by Jason Pye
Shhhhhh. Don’t tell the gun control crowd, but their biggest argument for enacting more stringent restrictions on firearms just went down in flames.
For months they’ve been telling Americans that expanded background checks and the Assault Weapons Ban were needed to prevent gun violence. Shortly after his gun control measures failed in the Senate, President Barack Obama lashed out at those who voted against the proposal, calling it a “shameful day in Washington.” He said the measures were needed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and to prevent instances of gun violence.
But what if gun violence is already on a downward trend? According to new numbers from Pew Research, the gun homicide rate has dropped by 49% since its peak in 1993 and non-fatal gun violence has dropped by 75% over the same length of time:
Compared with 1993, the peak of U.S. gun homicides, the firearm homicide rate was 49% lower in 2010, and there were fewer deaths, even though the nation’s population grew. The victimization rate for other violent crimes with a firearm—assaults, robberies and sex crimes—was 75% lower in 2011 than in 1993. Violent non-fatal crime victimization overall (with or without a firearm) also is down markedly (72%) over two decades.
Nearly all the decline in the firearm homicide rate took place in the 1990s; the downward trend stopped in 2001 and resumed slowly in 2007. The victimization rate for other gun crimes plunged in the 1990s, then declined more slowly from 2000 to 2008. The rate appears to be higher in 2011 compared with 2008, but the increase is not statistically significant. Violent non-fatal crime victimization overall also dropped in the 1990s before declining more slowly from 2000 to 2010, then ticked up in 2011.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics, a branch of the Department of Justice, also released a report on gun violence yesterday (PDF) and found a 39% drop in gun homicides from 1993 to 2011. The report also found a 70% drop in non-fatal gun violence. So the numbers are consistant.
An interesting point about the numbers in correlation to one of the policies that had been pushed recently by gun control advocates. The Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 expired 10 years after in went into effect, in 2004. Despite claims that expiration of the ban would lead to a surge in violent crime, the data shows that the gun homicide and non-fatal gun crime rates are actually lower today than they were in 2004.
Renewal of the Assault Weapons Ban was a goal of President Obama, but it failed in the Senate by a large margin. That hasn’t, however, stopped the campaign to bring it back. Just last week, Vice President Joe Biden made an appeal to law enforcement officials to help him bring back the ban, which will be part of a new push for gun control measures.
A study released by the National Research Council in 2004, noted that the Assault Weapons Ban didn’t have an affect on gun violence. And a memo released earlier this year by the National Institute of Justice — the research arm of the Department of Justice — noted that the Assault Weapons Ban is “unlikely to have an impact on gun violence” because the weapons targeted in the measure “are not a major contributor to US gun homicide.”
Unfortunately, Pew Research also noted that most Americans are completely unaware that instances of gun violence have actually dropped:
Despite the attention to gun violence in recent months, most Americans are unaware that gun crime is markedly lower than it was two decades ago. A new Pew Research Center survey (March 14-17) found that 56% of Americans believe the number of crimes involving a gun is higher than it was 20 years ago; only 12% say it is lower and 26% say it stayed the same. (An additional 6% did not know or did not answer.)
Asked about trends in the number of gun crimes “in recent years,” a plurality of 45% believe the number has gone up, 39% say it is about the same and 10% say it has gone down.
The media is completely culpable in this sad revelation. It’s a combination of an agenda — as evidenced by Piers Morgan and CNN, for example — and the media’s need to play up stories that they know will get attention.
There is no denying that what happened in Tucson, Aurora, and Newtown were tragedies, but the rhetoric being used to advance gun control measures simply doesn’t match reality. But that’s not going to stop President Obama from trying to make emotional appeals to try pass the gun control crowd’s long-held agenda.