While the gun control debate rages on, we hear claims that U.S. gun violence is out of control. Pundits and politicians will make claims about our violent culture by pointing our attention to violent movies, violent video games, and maybe even the lack of religion. But the fact of the matter is this: despite the narrative being offered by media pundits and politicians, the numbers show that the U.S. is actually becoming less violent.
According to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), in 1991 the U.S. murder rate was 9.8 per 100,000 people. In 2011, that number dropped to 4.7, which is almost a 54% drop in our murder rate. During that same period the U.S. violent crime rate dropped from 758.2 per 100,000 to 386.3 (a reduction of almost 50%).
Also according to the UCR, firearm murders have declined every year since 2006 from 10,177 murders to 8,583 in 2011 despite the population increasing in the United States. Nonfatal firearm crimes are dramatically decreasing as well. The Bureau of Justice Statistic shows that the crime rate for nonfatal violent crimes involving firearms dropped from 5.9 per 100,000 in 1993 to 1.4 in 2009 (over a 66% decrease). All of this is occurring despite the fact that there are more guns in America than ever before.
One might ask, if the U.S. is actually a less violent society now than it was two decades ago, and guns are much less of a problem now than they were before, why doesn't it feel that way? At this point, we could focus our attention towards two culprits, the media and our politicians. With the advent of the 24-hour news cycle and the priority of news outlets to bring forth breaking news, our news media is constantly on the search for the next big story.
Take for example the Empire State Building shooting that occurred in late August of 2012. Some media outlets like Reuters were quick to label it as a mass shooting, and even Fox News went so far as to label it as terrorism. There is no question that media outlets are all competing for our attention because that is how they make money. Also, there is no doubt that horrific events such as shootings and violence grab our attention. Maybe that's also why we have video games and movies that are more violent and realistic than they ever were before.
Invariably though, the media pushes the narrative to gun control and we look towards our politicians for answers. However, is it wise to let our sensationalist media and news outlets determine where our attention should go when discussing public policy?
The same could be said of politicians. Politicians much like our media outlets thrive on our attention. Dianne Feinstein is the exemplar of this as it only took her two days after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School to get in front of a camera to push her new legislation, which I must reiterate is not only ridiculous, but would be ineffective at addressing mass shootings.
Whenever a tragic event occurs, our media and politicians will always push the idea that we have to do something. The Obama administration is looking to pass gun control legislation as quickly as possible, while the emotions following the Sandy Hook incident remain high, regardless of whether it would prevent the next mass shooting incident from happening. Much like how we witnessed the passage of the PATRIOT Act in the aftermath of September 11th, our politicians are doing exactly the same thing today. Are we once again willing to trade our civil liberties for a false sense of security (and yes, gun ownership is a civil liberty)?
Tragedies occur every day, and they will continue to occur. Admittedly, some of these will involve guns. But despite what the media, politicians, and gun control advocates would have us believe, going by the statistics, violent crime and gun violence is not out of control. We know politicians and gun control advocates can't pass gun control legislation if they actually recognized that our society is actually becoming dramatically less violent. So we must ask ourselves, after these tragic instances, why is there not the same fervor to help the mentally ill, and why are we so focused on passing more gun control laws?