One would think this good news about gun homicides would be spread far and wide and that the American people would realize that the increase in gun ownership over the last decades hasn't resulted in an increase in firearm deaths.
But that's not the case. Fifty-six percent of Americans believe the death rate from guns is higher today than it was 20 years ago. And only 12% think it is lower.
Pew analyzed crime statistics and came to some startling conclusions:
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 numbers tell the story:
- In 2010, there were 3.6 gun homicides per 100,000 people, compared with 7.0 in 1993, according to CDC data.
- In 2010, CDC data counted 11,078 gun homicide deaths, compared with 18,253 in 1993.5
- Men and boys make up the vast majority (84% in 2010) of gun homicide victims. The firearm homicide rate also is more than five times as high for males of all ages (6.2 deaths per 100,000 people) as it is for females (1.1 deaths per 100,000 people).
- By age group, 69% of gun homicide victims in 2010 were ages 18 to 40, an age range that was 31% of the population that year. Gun homicide rates also are highest for adults ages 18 to 24 and 25 to 40.
- A disproportionate share of gun homicide victims are black (55% in 2010, compared with the 13% black share of the population). Whites were 25% of victims but 65% of the population in 2010. Hispanics were 17% of victims and 16% of the population in 2010.
- The firearm suicide rate (6.3 per 100,000 people) is higher than the firearm homicide rate and has come down less sharply. The number of gun suicide deaths (19,392 in 2010) outnumbered gun homicides, as has been true since at least 1981.
Pew cites many factors for the drop, including an end to the baby boom leading to fewer young people - the major perpetrators of violent crime - and stricter sentences for offenders. Missing from their factors in the drop in homicides is gun control. Even new policing methods appear not to have had much impact on the violent crime rate.
It doesn't matter of course. Gun control advocates will contiue to warn about the "epidemic" of gun violence and cite their phony stats as proof we need more legislation. They can't have an honest debate about guns because the facts are not on their side. So we are treated to appeals to emotion and pointing to tragedies like Newtown to gin up support for gun control - even though, as the Pew study points out, killings involving more than 3 victims is less than 1% of the homicides committed.
Where gun control is concerned, misinformation is a leading cause of wrong-headedness.