May 8, 2013
Violent Crime Dropped Dramatically Over 20 Years, Latest U.S Justice Department Study Confirms
The U.S. Department of Justice Tuesday issued a report that provides further evidence that the use of firearms in violent crimes has dropped dramatically nationwide over the past 20 years. This trend has occurred even as firearms ownership has increased significantly.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics report, homicides due to firearms fell 39 percent between 1993 and 2011. The use of firearms in crimes without fatalities dropped an even more impressive 69 percent during the same period. By the numbers, firearm-related homicides dropped from 18,253 in 1993 to 11,101 in 2011. Nonfatal firearm crimes in this period declined from 1.5 million in 1993 to 467,300 in 2011. Read the full report here.
These findings support the earlier released FBI’s Uniform Crime Report showing similar reductions in the violent crime rate.
Interestingly, the new report confirmed earlier data that less than 1 percent of state prison inmates who used a firearm in their crime had obtained it at a gun show. Instead, about 40 percent of these inmates obtained their firearms from illegal sources such as theft or through a drug deal, while 37 percent got their guns from a family member or friend.
Of the firearms used in the offenses that put those inmates behind bars, rifles were employed only about 1.5 percent of the time.
The new report also found that from 2007 to 2011, about 1 percent of violent crime victims, some 235,700 people, used a firearm in self-defense. Another 103,000 used a firearm to protect their property.
What does the data is this report say about the focus of gun control advocates on extending background checks to private-party firearms sales at gun shows or their fixation on banning modern sporting rifles? The short answer is that the data we continue to see in this study and others demonstrate that those approaches are unresponsive and ineffective public policy responses if the goal is to truly continue progress in crime reduction.
We would hope that this report would cause gun control advocates to at least question their pursuit of ill-directed new legislation, but we will not hold our breath. Likewise, we do not expect state legislatures in Connecticut, Maryland or Colorado to reverse bad lawmaking.
We also will not expect the Obama administration to cite this study done by the professional civil servants of the Justice Department since it does not support their political agenda. Nor will we expect extensive news media coverage, although we were pleased to see some articles and commentary.
NSSF and others will cite this report to help convince those policymakers who can be persuaded to stop and look at the data before acting or responding to emotional appeal. Our goal as a society should be to pursue policy that will truly work to further reduce the criminal misuse of firearms and to avoid making laws that work mainly to restrict and punish the law-abiding. Plato said it best: “Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.”
Larry Keane is senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Follow him on Twitter at @lkeane.