Paul Jenkins: Numbers don't jibe with anti-gun zealots' story

By PAUL JENKINSMay 11, 2013 

It must be excruciating to be a gun-grabber today and read that since 1993 there has been a steady and dramatic plunge in the homicide rate and other gun violence in the United States from their peak in the 1980s and '90s. That, despite surging population; despite having more guns per capita than any other nation. Ouch.

That is not propaganda from the National Rifle Association or gun manufacturers. That's from a pair of new studies released last week - using government data. They showed a remarkable, steep drop in violence in the 1990s; a more modest drop since 2000.

The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics says, "Firearm-related homicides dropped from 18,253 homicides in 1993 to 11,101 in 2011, and nonfatal firearm crimes dropped from 1.5 million victimizations in 1993 to 467,300 in 2011."

Add a Pew Research Center study - in part using information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - that says there were seven gun homicides per 100,000 people in 1993, but only 3.6 per 100,000 in 2010, and the Left's lie that guns are the problem comes undone.

"Compared with 1993, the peak of U.S. gun homicides, the firearm homicide rate was 49 percent lower in 2010, and there were fewer deaths, even though the nation's population grew," Pew researchers concluded. There were 75 percent fewer victims of assaults, robbery and sex crimes in 2011 than in 1993.

Who would have guessed? Most Americans believe the opposite. We have been misled to believe our streets are running red with blood. Pew researchers say only 12 percent of Americans -- or slightly more than one in 10 -- believe the gun crime rate is lower today than it was in 1993; 56 percent believe it is higher.

How can that be? How can the rate be falling when President Barack Obama assures us we are awash in gun violence. He even blames Mexico's drug war slaughter on American guns. Michele Obama says children in Chicago wonder "whether they're going to make it out of school alive" Democrats say the way to fix it is to reduce rifle and pistol and magazine capacity and get rid of AR-15 rifles and expand background checks. Some suggest the Second Amendment must go.

It is all nonsense. For 2010, the last year for which data is available, more people were beaten to death than killed with rifles. In 2011, more died from hammers than AR-15s. Homicide does not make the Centers for Disease Control's Top 15 causes of death anymore.

Pew researchers say mass shootings -- and you are twice as likely to die from a lightening strike -- focus public attention and hold a ghoulish fascination fostered by frenetic, round-the-clock media coverage.

Tragic mass shootings such as those at Tucson, Ariz.; Aurora, Colo.; and Newtown, Conn., focus media attention for weeks on end and magnify the perception of a growing problem.

But those who would tell you mass shootings are increasing, says James Alan Fox, a Northeastern University criminologist in Boston, are wrong. "Mass shootings have not increased in number or in overall body count, at least not over the past several decades," he told Boston.com.

We should not be surprised. The numbers have been there all along, but that kind of thing is not sexy to the media. Imagine: "This just in: Things are getting better." Such information does not conform to the Left's playbook on guns.

The Pew study says the U.S. gun crime rate started climbing in the 1960s and peaked in the late 1980s and early 1990s. That was about the time our gangs and crack cocaine problem exploded, along with a grim determination to throw bad guys into the slammer.

There is no discounting the fact we have much to do; that we turn to violence far too often, over far too little. The studies show, however, that guns are not the core problem. Perhaps the best way to address any of it would be for policy makers to acknowledge the problems are multifaceted. Drugs. Families. The economy. Jobs. Education. Law-abiding gun owners are not the problem.

Instead of having morons writing seminar letters to the editor -- "I am an NRA member and hunter and I have guns, but. . . ," -- or suggesting NRA members be shipped to Gitmo, maybe we could all agree to deal in the truth.

We must start somewhere. That is as good a place as any.


Paul Jenkins is editor of the AnchorageDailyPlanet.com.

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