With the recent overload in media magnification of random, multi-victim shooting events that have occurred this summer, many are arguing that it is time to revive the gun control debate in the United States. The arguments in favor of giving rebirth to this sort of discussion are largely based on myths, fallacies, and misconceptions about the facts regarding violent crime and the effects of gun control.
It is important to shed some light on these facts so that people can make more informed decisions in relation to their opinions about gun control, gun rights, and how all of this will play a part in the 2012 election season. Of course, many people have very deep seeded convictions on these issues; they will refuse to change their minds regardless of any evidence that is in front of them. But at the very least, this way it can be said that the facts are out there for everyone to see.
Contrary to popular belief, violent crime is not on the rise in the United States. In fact, the opposite is true. The FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting (URC) Program is a handy tool that helps make sense of crime statistics spanning several decades. Their most recent completed report, from 2010, shows that in that year there were 4.8 murders per 100,000 citizens. While seemingly a large number, this is a 5% decrease from 2009, a 17.4% decrease from 2006, and 15% decrease from 2001. An estimated 14,748 people murdered in 2010, a 15% decrease from 2006.
Despite the sensationalized image of mass murders being committed by vigilantes and citizens-gone-rogue on a large scale, these sorts of events are exceptionally rare. The vast majority of murders (about 50%) are single victim, single offender incidents. The next largest category (29%) involves a single victim and an unknown number of offenders. So generally speaking, more than three-quarters of all murders are not of the “multi-person shooting” nature. Crimes with multiple victims and a single offender account for only about 5% of all murders, and as we will see shortly, this in itself is normally not a random, chaotic event such as the ones that took place in Aurora, Colorado or Oak Creek, Wisconsin.
A very small number of total violent crimes involve random victims. Of the murders that occurred in 2010, only about 1,923 were the result of another felony such as a robbery, rape, or assault. And even in these circumstances, one third of these victims had a previous relationship with the offender. However, the majority of murders which occurred that year (roughly 50%) were circumstances in which the victims knew their assailants and which no other felony was involved. This includes love triangles, children killed by babysitters, alcohol induced brawls, or arguments over money or property. Arguments of some kind generally accounted for at least half of these murders, or about one quarter of murders overall.
Generally speaking, it is a widely accepted fact that the vast majority of murders occur between a single offender and a single victim, overwhelmingly males of the same race (who are usually acquaintances) between the ages of 17 and 35, in large metropolitan areas, in a dispute over money, property, or gang related issues. In a majority of cases the offender, the victim, or both are repeat offenders. This in and of itself does a great deal of damage to a major argument in favor of more gun control, as it is already illegal for felons to own firearms in all 50 states, as well as at the federal level.
The most important fact? The Department of Justice estimates that there are an average of 1.5 million defensive gun uses in the United States per year by law-abiding citizens. This number, when coupled with the number of people murdered in 2010, shows that people are more than 100 times as likely to use guns for good than harm. Forgetting about hunting and sport shooting—only considering the number of times that guns are used in real world confrontations involving two or more citizens—guns are only used .009% of the time for harm, and 99.991% of the time for good.
That being said, imposing harsher laws and stricter controls on guns negatively affects the bulk of people, who use guns for recreation and self defense, while doing very little to stop violent people from committing crimes. It further diminishes the Constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens, while aiding and abetting the goons and barbarians of society by making their victims more vulnerable. It is blatantly obvious that the cure is worse than the disease.