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Violent Crime and Murder Are Half What They Used to Be; Is That Changing?

Is San Bernardino the new normal or a non-representative event?

FBIFBIEarlier this fall, the FBI released crime statistics for 2014, the latest year for which data are fully available. In terms of violent crime generally and homicide specifically, those numbers are unambiguously good, with massive reductions in crime rates over the past 20 years.

In 1995, for instance, the violent crime rate (which includes murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault) per 100,000 inhabitants was 684.5. In 2014, it stood at 365.5. For murder and non-negligent manslaughter, the rate was 8.2 and 4.5 in 2014. These trends also show up in other violent crimes too.

In light of recent mass shootings in San Bernardino and Colorado, folks opposed to liberalized gun ownership and carry laws are quick to cry out that "enough is enough" and that, in the acerbic headline of the New York Daily News, "God isn't fixing this."

But the first thing we should be doing—especially before any meaningful information about either recent shooting has been released to the general public—is to establish whether in fact the United States is in fact seeing an increase in gun-related violence and crime.

As I noted earlier this morning, there's no reason to think so, despite a steady drip of headlines touting huge increases in homicide in large American cities. Writes Max Ehrenfreund in the Washington Post:

The total number of homicides in 2013 and 2014 in the 10 largest cities was 1,871 and 1,889 respectively. If current trends continue, there will be 2,178 homicides in those cities this year. That number would be less than the total for 2012 (2,224) and for any previous year since at least 1985 in those 10 cities.

"Crime and violence in most big cities in the United States are pretty much as they've been lately," said Franklin Zimring, a criminologist at the University of California, Berkeley. "Boy, is that good news."

The day after a horrific mass shooting is not a day to be crowing about "good news." But it's also not a day to speculate wildly about the causes of, much less the solutions to, events whose motives are far from clear. If the San Berdoo shooters were motivated by workplace animus (as some have speculated) and the Planned Parenthood shooter by ideology, would that change how we anticipate and avoid such events? What about nutjobs like Jared Loughner, the shooter of Gabby Giffords, whose mind is just a complete jumble (the same seems to go for Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza)? If we're serious about curbing mass shootings, all of this sort of stuff needs to be considered along with anything specifically related to gun ownership and possession. It may be that different types of shooters and locations require different defensive strategies.

But the very first thing we should be understanding is whether or not the problem of gun violence is increasing, declining, or holding steady. And what contributed to that trend.

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  • waffles||

    Squirrels are taking occupation in the reason servers at twice the rate as before. Is this increasing?

  • d3x / dt3||

    Now they've infected the articles!

  • Rasilio||

    When the squirrelz can get to the Jacket are any of us safe?

  • Galactic Chipper Cdr Lytton||

    Double vision...

    Foreigner(s)...

    'messican pot booty sex...

    BINGO!

  • Mazakon||

    I thought they were at that kindergarten still!

  • Lord Rollingpin||

    I for one welcome our new Squirrelz overlords.

  • Galactic Chipper Cdr Lytton||

    Decreasing violent crime, unless the aggregated statistics are juked.

  • Galactic Chipper Cdr Lytton||

    And the real point should be that arguing about statistics and gun violence is pointless because it supposes the gun grabbers are rational men who are willing debate the issue on a utilitarian basis. They are not. They are emotional children who will use any rationale to provide a fig leaf of cover for their predetermined course. Thankfully the Founding Fathers, after their own brush with would be gun grabbers, put in some very clear words to stave off future attempts.

  • Rt. Hon. Judge Woodrow Chipper||

    Of course, the gun grabbers need guns in order to grab guns.

    Gun grabbers = sociopaths.

  • DarrenM||

    First they'll outlaw all guns, then they'll outlaw all knives, then they'll outlaw all mean words. Maybe not in that order.

  • ||

    It may be that different types of shooters and locations require different defensive strategies.

    Or a clear-eyed realization that there's a certain irreducible minimum that cannot be defended against without a complete reworking of society into a police state.

  • Loki||

    Pretty much. But progtards wouldn't be progtards if they didn't think they could use government force to "make people better."

  • Sevo||

    New York, New York; a city so big, they had to name it twice!

  • Lord Rollingpin||

    New York has nothing on Reason, a magazine with articles so wounderous that they cry out to be posted twice, or even more.

  • Medical Physics Guy||

    The squirrel sleeper cell has struck!

  • GILMORE™||

    Obviously the first thing we need to do is change how data is defined so we can make hysterical claims about "Epidemics" of violence.

    Every single CNN and Reuters story i've seen repeatedly cited the claim that there's been a "350 Mass Shootings" this year

    70% of those "mass shootings" were cases where 1 (or 0) people were killed. They're not "spree killings" - they are predominantly "gang-banger-drive-bys" where some morons shoots wildly into a crowd and multiple people can claim injury as a consequence. (*its not even clear from the data that the 'injured' numbers were all shot)

    They make up this new category of crime simply to create the impression that "mass killings" are common, when the highly-publicized incidents which progs hyperventilate about remain extremely rare, and in the context of historically low-firearms-violence.

  • Dallas H.||

    They are also shootings where 1 person was shot and 3 people injured other ways (like #111 for 2015 http://wjla.com/news/crime/4-i.....ton-114076 )

    I won't even mention the ones where 5 people were shot by a pellet gun.

  • Ken Shultz||

    It's interesting that the rate continued to decline through the last recession circa 2008.

    I would have thought the rate would at least increase through a recession.

    The increase through the Iraq War period, circa 2003, was expected, I'd think. I've read before that the murder rate increases, cross-culturally and throughout history, during times of war. When the governing authority says that it's okay to kill the enemy, a certain subset of the population has trouble differentiating between foreign enemies and their enemies at home.

    Still, wouldn't you think the murder rate, along with armed robberies and domestic violence, would increase during a recession? Maybe the suicide rate goes up, and Americans with the Protestant work ethic, who might go commit robberies or something otherwise, are just more prone to blame themselves.

  • Old.Mexican||

    But the very first thing we should be understanding is whether or not the problem of gun violence is increasing, declining, or holding steady.


    Nick, why would that be important? Look at the murder rate per 100K people. Despite what you hear in the media, the U.S. is one of the safest places to be. Gun ownership in the U.S. is the highest in the world with 300 MILLION guns owned by as many as 100 million individuals, yet there were only 14,000 homicides in the US in 2014. That's not an appalling statistic. THAT'S A FUCKING MIRACLE! That's only 4.5 per 100K. The murder rate in Honduras where guns are practically proscribed is 90 per 100,000. That's TWENTY TIMES the murder rate in the US and its higher than any of the worst cities in the US.

    I am asking "why is this important" because from the standpoint of the Marxians, these statistics are meaningless. They're only concerned with disarming the population because it is very difficult to impose their pet social engineering projects on an armed people. That's all. They're not sincere in their preoccupation with gun violence.

  • rpmii||

    Actually, if you subtract from that 14000 the number of homicides by gun that occur in the commission of a felony and the ones where either the victim or killer has a criminal record, the chances of you being killed by a gun the US is next to nothing. Maybe couple thousand per year--more than that fall off ladders and drown in bathtubs.

  • Satyrical||

    “… the workers must be armed and organized. The whole proletariat must be armed at once with muskets, rifles, cannon and ammunition… Under no pretext should arms and ammunition be surrendered; any attempt to disarm the workers must be frustrated, by force if necessary.”
    – Karl Marx, Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League, 1850

    We "Marxians" are pro-gun. Please, PLEASE do not confuse Marxists with Liberals. Marxism is anti-Liberal, and in fact, Liberalism itself was empowered and promoted all over by the US government during the 1960s and 70s SPECIFICALLY to combat the spread of Communism. Reasearch the "Cultural Cold War". I myself read Reason because of how closely its general mindset and analysis aligns with my own classical Marxism. Its one of the very few places where you can even GET mainstream analysis that isnt pre-written soundbites taken straight out of either the RNC or DNC handbooks.

  • PM||

    I was going back and forth between CNN and Fox News this morning. Both were frantically declaring that these types of shootings are the "new normal", and the only thing left now for us as a society is how to cope with an ever-increasing number of gun crimes. They each had a different solution, but the one thing they were absolutely sure of was that we're seeing a literally exponential increase in shootings.

    Oh, and in case you were wondering the media still doesn't know the difference between automatic and semi-automatic weapons.

  • Sevo||

    "Oh, and in case you were wondering the media still doesn't know the difference between automatic and semi-automatic weapons."

    We had a visitor in another thread this morning wondering why anyone 'needs' a semi-automatic weapon; some were kind enough to point out that most every pistol is a 'semi-auto'; dunno if it made any difference.

  • Loki||

    dunno if it made any difference

    Doubtful.

  • XM||

    The irony is that both sides agree that rhetoric and sensational coverage of mass shootings feed delusional fantasies of mentally deranged individuals. And yet, the left almost never reaches for nuance after incidents like this.

    There's some screwy guy watching Obama and his pals hyperventilate on air about the new gun death Shangrila in America. Just like they hyperventilate about every single slight and discrimination they see fro every corner of their existence. He won't do some drive by shootings, no. That gets no attention.

  • Bayard||

    "Crime and violence in most big cities in the United States are pretty much as they've been lately," said Franklin Zimring, a criminologist at the University of California, Berkeley. "Boy, is that good news."

    Mr. Zimring's astonishing pronouncement is entirely dependent upon perspective, and most certainly one I do not share. It is not "good news" that crime and violence are pretty much as they've been any more than it is "good news" that our soldiers' mortality rates of death from IEDs are pretty much as they've been, or that the rate in the spread of HIV-infection is pretty much as it's been. It is entirely bad news, albeit marginally better than rates of such unfortunate events increasing.

  • Bayard||

    Moreover, it seems to me that mitigating the loss of innocent lives to crime and violence as much as possible is the collective responsibility of any decent society in the 21st century, and that all attempts to do so should be tried and tested. One's right to life vastly outstrips another's (perceived) right to acquire assault weapons freely and without regard to competence, public record or mental stability. I like my freedom just as much as the next guy but given the reality of the world we live in, when Senate Republicans vote down a measure to keep people on terrorist and criminal watch lists from buying assault weapons ostensibly to keep me from being discriminated against, I'm willing to give up my gun. I think it's way past time to stop thinking that simply maintaining the status quo is "good news" and to start thinking of our public responsibility to do everything within reason to ensure public safety.

  • Curt2004||

    "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

    ~Ben Franklin

  • JR Robble Dobbs||

    trickle

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