While reading yet another article about gun violence and mass shootings, I came to the conclusion that most of us aren’t sure what is true and what is false. For the next few months, we will be talking about and debating policies. It’s worth getting the right facts on the table.
First, violent crime has been decreasing for decades. Although I read this in many places and even say it on the radio with some regularity, many people wonder if it is true. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, the homicide rate is about half what it was twenty years ago, and the gun-related death rate is also half.
Second, a large percentage of gun deaths in America are due to suicide. In previous commentaries, I have cited statistics from the Centers for Disease Control. Look at any year, and you will find that gun suicides outnumber gun homicides often by as much as two to one.
Third, you are unlikely to be a victim of a gun-related homicide unless you live in a dangerous area or are engaged in dangerous activity. John Malcolm describes four factors correlated with gun homicides. First is location. As I have mentioned in previous commentaries, over half of all murders occur in 2 percent of the nation’s 3,142 counties. Second, those murders are often associated with gang activity and drug activity. Third, most of these victims are males between the ages of 15 and 34. And a fourth factor is a dangerous partner. One law journal found that people recently or currently involved with abusive partners were more likely to be victims of gun-related homicides.
These statistics, along with these four factors, remind us that gun violence is not uniform throughout the country nor is it likely to surface in safer neighborhoods or around safe, law-abiding people. That is why any solution to gun violence needs to focus on those areas and people who are indeed dangerous.