America’s First Freedom — the official journal of the National Rifle Association — posted an article last month highlighting a recent report from the FBI regarding national crime rates.
The FBI’s 2018 “Crime in the United States” report collected crime data from law enforcement agencies across America. From the looks of it, the news is good.
The FBI highlights that “[In 2018] violent crime offenses decreased when compared with estimates from 2017. Robbery offenses fell 12.0 percent, murder, and non-negligent manslaughter offenses fell 6.2 percent, and the estimated volume of aggravated assault offenses decreased 0.4 percent.”
The report noted that violent crime rates bottomed out in 2014 to their lowest point since 1970. Furthermore, the 2018’s violent crime rate was the third-lowest since 1970.
During the last three decades, America has experienced significant changes in its gun laws throughout the country. Curiously, the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban expired in 2004, which many predicted would lead to bedlam in the streets. The data proved this wrong when the FBI noted that murder rates went down by 3.6 percent from 2003 to 2004, contrary to people’s fears.
However, most of the change regarding gun policies took place in state legislatures. While some states tightened up their gun control, others relaxed gun restrictions and even implemented policies such as Constitutional Carry — which allow law-abiding Americans to carry firearms without having to obtain a government permit. Increased carry has continued into the present.
A study on the number of concealed-carry permit holders released by gun expert John Lott indicated that “In 2019, the number of concealed handgun permits soared to now over 18.66 million—a 304 percent increase since 2007. About an 8 percent growth over the number of permits since 2018.” Additionally, per capita, gun ownership increased by 56 percent from 1993 to 2013. If we had taken the media at their word, we would have expected gun crime to skyrocket. Nevertheless, gun crime continued to plummet according to the FBI, which highlighted a 49 percent decrease.
Conventional rifles like the AR-15 have been largely demonized in recent years, being portrayed as a frequently used tool for carrying out attacks. As usual, the data contradicts media assumptions. For starters, AR-15s only accounted for 173 deaths in mass shootings from 2007 to 2017. Whereas, rifles of all categories were involved in 439 deaths on an annual basis. Putting this in perspective, rifles constituted 2 percent of homicides in 2018. On the other hand, knives (11 percent), hands, fists, and feet (5 percent) and blunt instruments (3 percent) were used in more homicides than rifles.
It’s safe to say that the current gun violence debate is mostly based on hysterics and not a careful analysis of the facts. Stripping the rights of millions of law-abiding gun owners is both unethical and an invitation for criminals to prey on victims whom they know will be defenseless.
Indeed, there’s gun violence in many of America’s urban centers. Solving the problem does not require implementing gun control of any type. More local forms of policing – that target areas where criminals tend to cluster and renewed civic engagement – will do much more to stop crime than passing new gun control laws. If the political circumstances permit it, many of these areas should entertain the idea of making it easier for law-abiding citizens to carry firearms.
No matter how we slice it, increased legislation is not the quick fix to gun violence problems in America.