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Gun Homicide Rate Down 49% Since 1993 Peak; Public Unaware (pewsocialtrends.org)
190 points by krg on May 8, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 258 comments

The article "In Medical Triumph, Homicides Fall Despite Soaring Gun Violence"


from December 8, 2012 provides some perspective on falling absolute numbers (and thus a falling rate) of gunshot deaths.

"Crime experts who attribute the drop in killings to better policing or an aging population fail to square the image of a more tranquil nation with this statistic: The reported number of people treated for gunshot attacks from 2001 to 2011 has grown by nearly half.

. . . .

"After a steady decline through the 1990s, the annual number of homicides zigzagged before resuming a decline in 2007, falling from 16,929 that year to an estimated 14,722 in 2010, according to FBI crime data.

"At the same time, medical data and other surveys in the U.S. show a rising number of serious injuries from assaults with guns and knives. The estimated number of people wounded seriously enough by gunshots to require a hospital stay, rather than treatment and release, rose 47% to 30,759 in 2011 from 20,844 in 2001, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Electronic Injury Surveillance System-All Injury Program. The CDC estimates showed the number of people injured in serious stabbings rose to 23,550 from 22,047 over the same period."

Emergency medicine for gunshot victims has improved enormously in the last twenty years, and many people who are shot by criminals now survive for a lifetime of permanent disability rather dying on the street. A crime can only be classified as a "homicide" by the uniform statistical methods if someone dies, but a crime can still be very serious and harmful to the victim if it involves a gunshot by a criminal.

As usual, you post an authoritative sounding reference that confirms a popular slant--in this case "gun violence is as bad as ever or even getting worse!"--and it gets voted to the top of the comments where it stays visible just long enough to protect the confirmation biases of those who agree with it, then falls off the front page before it can be refuted.

Your link is behind a pay wall for me and I don't have time to completely analyze how they're justifying their spin, but according to the Bureau of Justice, non-fatal firearm crimes have indeed been falling for the last 20 years, so, no, it's not just a product of improving treatment of gunshot wounds:

    Nonfatal firearm violence declined from 1993 through
    2004 before fluctuating in the mid- to late 2000s.

As this is a well-known trend, I'm pretty sure anyone who wants to can find lots and lots of citations.

Moreover, this should be obvious to anyone who has participated in public society for the last 20 years. Decreasing crime statistics, including gun crime, aren't fool's gold. Crime is down. Society is getting gentler.

Twenty years ago I was 15. Gang violence dominated the news. Hard gangsta rap infused pop culture and music and it carried with it a true dangerous edge. Now culture is changing. Electronic music is popular. NBA basketball players dress up to look like Carleton Banks for press conferences. Internet culture, reddit culture is taking over. Kids spend all their time watching silly YouTube videos and playing iPhone games. There is far less free time for roving bands of aimless punks to get up to mischief. My teen-age son and his friends are incredibly nerdy and gentle and I've noticed this throughout the generation.

There's a graph of "non-fatal violent firearm crime" right in the article. It looks flat to me between 2001 and 2011.

Are both true somehow? Those facts seem to be in conflict.

First, the quoted WSJ data is stated on an absolute basis (inflating/sensationalizing the numbers, obviously), while the graph in this article is stated on a relative basis. This still leaves an apparent discrepancy. Other real causes for the discrepancy could be improvements in emergency response in areas with gun violence. This could cause in increase in hospitalizations based on people not dying before getting to the hospital, but this doesn't seem like a large factor. This leaves quality of data as the more likely culprit. The article goes on to say after the portion tokenadult quoted:

> Criminologists say they are cautious about using such medical statistics to draw conclusions because of year-to-year inconsistencies in the number of medical institutions reporting data. The FBI collects annual homicide and aggravated assault statistics but doesn't have reliable numbers for gun and knife attacks.

> Jens Ludwig, a law professor and the director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab, said he was leery of any number beyond reported homicides.

> "Homicide is the one thing we're measuring well," he said. "Everything else is subject to much more uncertainty," including varying numbers of emergency departments contributing data, as well as differences in how injuries are classified.

So basically, take your pre-existing political biases and use that as a guide to choose which data you believe, just like everyone else does.

The one you really want is the third one: "All non-fatal violent crime".

Basically, all crime is down from its 1993 peak, and it so happens that firearm-related crimes are a subset of that. I don't have the time to run numbers to see what the percentage change is, but it'd probably be enlightening.

Is it possible that the rise from 2001 to 2011 has to do with the recession rather than a general upward trend? Would it be possible to see statistics from 2001 to say 2007 instead? Or even better the last 20 years.

Also ALL violent crime is down 50% since 1993.


Fear is a powerful weapon. The media and politicians know this and selectively choose which crime stats to promote.

Emotional outrage > rational analysis when it comes to selling pageviews and building political support.

That is nothing new. Fortunately the internet is helping to temper that imbalance.

> selectively choose which crime stats to promote

For example, FBI homicide stats last year show 350 killed by rifles of any kind, assault or otherwise, while 750 killed by hammers. I keep waiting for the groundswell of public support for hammer control.

Which stats are you looking at? The 2012 UCR isn't out yet, and the 2011 stats show 323 by rifles, 457 by "blunt objects" which includes but is not limited to hammers. There haven't been 750 people killed in homicides by blunt objects in 2007 through 2011.

However, "firearms, type not stated" is 1587.

Source: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/c...

Deaths by handguns in US 2011: 6,220 [1]

Most people aren't really bothered by rifles (which are mostly used for hunting), but handguns (which really have no purpose except killing humans)

[1] http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/c...

To be clear, that is homicides by handgun. Total number of deaths, including accidental and suicide, is much higher.

Rifles (especially AK47s) are very popular with gangs for drive by shootings.

The AK-47 is a select fire fully automatic rifle. It has been illegal to import or manufacture fully automatic rifles for civilian use for decades.

AKs in the US have been semi-automatic for a long time. It takes an experienced gunsmith to restore fully automatic firing to an imported AK. They have been sold this way in the US for decades and are a cheaper alternative to the AR-15.

Then it isn't an AK-47 in the same way that an AR-15 isn't an M16.

The point is, nobody is making or importing full auto AK-47s and selling them to gang members. A semiautomatic-only AK-47 is just the functional equivalent of a hunting rifle.

The M16 has been semi-auto (single fire and three round bursts) since the Vietnam war with the rare exception of special forces weapons[1]. Fully automatic mainline rifles are inaccurate, wasteful, expensive, and less effective.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M16_rifle#M16A2

Burst fire IS semi-auto, despite the other commenter. Automatic firing means that when you hold down the trigger it continues to fire until either the trigger is released or the ammunition supply is exhausted.

The federal government does not consider burst to be semi-auto. Semi-auto rifles are legal for civilians without any special license. Automatic weapons require a Class III license and no civilian can buy one manufactured after 1986. Three-round burst falls into the later category, and any gun store in the U.S. will use the same terminology as the ATF.

I've been in many gun shops, never heard them referred to as automatic weapons. At least in the midwest, I've heard them referred to as either "burst" or Class III weapons.

Burst fire is NOT semi-auto.

Do you have a citation for that? AK47s became popular with many hunters and target shooters because they're rugged, cheap, and have really cheap ammunition for target practice with a rifle.

Popular with gangs for the same reason. They're also pretty intimidating. Citation? Go to a search engine and type something like "AK47 chicago gang" or search the news websites for any large city with a high murder rate for 'ak47'

> The AK-47 is a select fire fully automatic rifle. It has been illegal to import or manufacture fully automatic rifles for civilian use for decades.

Don't do this. You know I meant 'AK pattern weapon', we'll use the WASR you can get at any sporting goods store for an example. You can get/modify all the parts to convert over a civilian AK to full auto without problems, unless the ATF finds out.

You'll get a lot of hits on that because the media calls every long gun an AK47. No criminal in his right mind would use one, it's expensive and objectively terrible.

You think full-auto weapons aren't used on the streets of America?

Fully automatic weapons are exceedingly rare. I know everyone thinks gang members are just flush with first-world armaments but most are using handguns. Easy to get a hold of (either stolen or straw purchases) and easy to conceal. Other than organized crime, street gangs have very few contacts for illicit imported weapons purchases.

Ah, but they're illegal, so you're admitting that banning guns doesn't work.

I would say you are wrong because legal AR15s, even California legal AR15s with bullet buttons, have become popular among all types of gun owners. It's the #1 selling rifle. There are many variants and styles for hunting, such as the 6.8, 6.5 and .308 (also known as the AR10).

I've seen estimates of death by auto-erotic asphyxiation to be in the 500-1,000 per year in the US. Whatever will they ban to stop that?

Belts and closets I suppose?

It's tough to kill at a distance with a hammer, unlike a rifle. I suppose that's why people fear rifles more, but honestly I think the hammer killer is more frightening. If someone decides to randomly put a bullet through my head from half a mile away, I'll never even hear it coming. But if someone decides to crush my skull with a hammer, I'm going to be around long enough to know that I'm going to die in a really stupid and wasteful manner.

These hammer-wielding maniacs rival many an American shooting spree: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dnepropetrovsk_maniacs

That's the most horrific thing I have ever read

Aren't you also around long enough to try to do something about it? That seems important to me.

Long-range killings (outside military combat) are extremely rare. Hammer killings aren't in comparison.

hammers don't kill people; contractors kill people

Can you link to these stats ?

(not an evidentiary challenge, just morbid curiosity)

Ban All the Hammers! PS You're awesome ;)

750 were killed by hammers or clubs which includes any blunt force attack (vase, bat, golf club, etc. I am assuming that you're accurately quoting a number, though last I saw that number was more in the 450 range). Secondly every home has numerous objects that qualify as "clubs", many of them serving valid, functional roles (for instance to hammer, or to hit balls, etc). In many households a firearm has one single purpose, which is to kill or maim (given that hunting is rare, though I suppose that's a weird exception I make given that hunting is ultimately about killing, food pyramid and all).

So that's the first gross misrepresentation that you've made.

The second is that few argue for "rifle control", but instead want "gun control". Those guns that kill 30,000+ Americans per year (whether homicide, suicide, or accidental).

I'm a hunter (albeit here in Canada), but just as I despise misrepresentation of facts one way, it doesn't justify gross misrepresentation the other way.

>The second is that few argue for "rifle control", but instead want "gun control".

Except that's not what was actually happening. Most of what was hotly debated over the last few months has been over an "Assault Weapons Ban", that is a ban on certain semi-automatic rifles, very rarely involved in crime.

It was only after that was defeated that people started talking about universal background checks.

>Those guns that kill 30,000+ Americans per year

60% of those are from suicide. If you look at suicide rate by country--there is no correlation with gun ownership. How is gun control going to help our suicide rate? The best information we have shows it's not going to help because there are too many easily available alternates.

>>How is gun control going to help our suicide rate

What if I think people have a right to kill themselves?

"They tell us that suicide is the greatest piece of cowardice; that only a madman could be guilty of it; and other insipidities of the same kind; or else they make the nonsensical remark that suicide is wrong; when it is quite obvious that there is nothing in the world to which every man has a more unassailable title than to his own life and person."

- Arthur Schopenhauer


It doesn't mean you have to make it easy to do impulsively.

You can also legalize euthanasia in case of severe, chronic depression, like in some European countries.

Man up and jump off a bridge. Or issue guns with only one bullet. It's not like you're going to miss.

Limiting suicide is a noble goal, but that's not the issue being fought politically and in the press (as per TFA).

Yes there is http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/03/suicides-vs-handgun-...

Introduce background checks and you will reduce the number of suicides, more likely than not.

The conclusions motherjones got from that study were absolutely ridiculous.

The big graph they display is meaningless.

Here is a quote from the article.

"...gun suicides, where the majority of victims don't have a documented serious mental illness."

In many states background checks don't require a waiting period. So a background check wouldn't have stopped them from buying a gun.

Their entire premise is based on suicide being quick and impulsive. Yet their only data is on background checks for private sales.

Are you telling me that someone who wants quick access to a gun is going to wait until Saturday rolls around, drive to a gunshow and buy a gun?

Motherjones also fails to recognize that MANY states already have mandatory "cooling off periods" where if you buy a gun on say Monday you can't pick it up until later in the week.


"As with many states, Illinois has a mandatory 72-hour wait period between the time a person purchases a handgun and the time he can take the gun home from a licensed dealer."

In most cases, these waiting periods are for handguns and not rifles or shotguns. The law is not to prevent suicides but to prevent 'crimes of passion'. There would be very little difficulty in someone killing themselves with a rifle or shotgun, although it isn't as easy as putting a handgun to one's temple.

BTW, I'm not arguing with you just clarifying.

It seems like you could get the same result just by imposing a waiting period on first time firearm purchases regardless of background checks.

>Except that's not what was actually happening. Most of what was hotly debated over the last few months has been over an "Assault Weapons Ban", that is a ban on certain semi-automatic rifles, very rarely involved in crime.

That's because they knew that the nuts in NRA and other pro-gun lobbies would never in a 1000 years accept a total "gun control" law. So they scaled down their proposal.

Plus you also have this BS amendment about the "right to bear arms" that you treat as some kind of holy scripture.

I wonder what would have happened if some part of the constitution called for the "right to own slaves".

>I wonder what would have happened if some part of the constitution called for the "right to own slaves".

I suspect it would have been amended when the states agreed to ratify such a proposal..


Nice. Not an American, so not familiar with this case.

Which reinforces my point: no damn reason to keep the constitution, the founding fathers and 200 year old amendments as "holy scripture". You can fuck "the right to bear arms" and change the laws.

>You can fuck "the right to bear arms" and change the laws.

You could, via constitutional amendment. There are 2 methods to do this, a constitutional convention (hasn't happened yet). Or the amendment can pass both houses with a 2/3 vote, and then be ratified by 3/4 of the states.

This is the legal procedure for changing the constitution. However, the anti-gun control crowd doesn't have anywhere near the support for this.

Ignoring the constitution and confiscating all guns via dictatorial fiat would result in civil war/mass uprisings that would kill far more people than currently killed via firearm.

Most people who are anti-gun, such as yourself due to your "BS amendment" comment, are usually very ignorant or fearful of guns.

As a very middle of the road type of guy, I joined NRA and 2nd Amendment Foundation for the first time a few months ago because of too many people like you who are too easily influenced by the media in the past 6 months.

>Most people who are anti-gun, such as yourself due to your "BS amendment" comment, are usually very ignorant or fearful of guns.

I actually went through a compulsory one year long army training (and got to be a sergeant) but nice try anyway.

>As a very middle of the road type of guy, I joined NRA and 2nd Amendment Foundation for the first time a few months ago because of too many people like you who are too easily influenced by the media in the past 6 months.

I'm from another country, I don't even read your media that much.

I just feel that selling guns to anybody in a society with so many wackos (with the highest gun crime rates in the western world, the highest incarceration rate in the world, and the highest number of nutjob serial killers) is wrong.

And I'm also against the "protecting my private property means I have the right to kill any trespasser" cowboy logic.

I prefer to be robbed and let the police handle it, than kill people.

> In many households a firearm has one single purpose, which is to kill or maim (given that hunting is rare).

Kill or maim criminal intruders (given that murderers are rare). I'm not sure where in Canada you are, but hunting is far from rare in Canada and most areas of the US.

I'm not comfortable with the parent posters assumptions.

I live in Wisconsin and last I heard 15% of residents hunt regularly. I'd estimate for every 5 people I know who have guns for hunting, one has a handgun. I don't personally know anyone who has a handgun and does not have guns for hunting.

but hunting is far from rare in Canada

5% of Canadians hunt. That qualifies as pretty rare to me. I don't know what the percentage is in the US, but just gut feeling is that there's a wide gap between gun ownership and hunting.

It doesn't to me. You're factoring in all Canadians of all ages (newborn->elderly, men, women) in all areas. 1 in 20 of every single human being regardless of age/gender seems pretty common in context.

If I were to perform the same sort of blanket percentage on Americans that actually watch baseball games regularly, I bet I'd reach a similar percentage. That doesn't mean that baseball fans are rare.

A citation for your 5% figure would be nice, because it might contain some meaningful context to lay a better picture than it does by itself.

5%, or 1/20, is the commonly reported figure - https://www.google.ca/search?q=percentage+of+canada+hunts

I live in the Toronto area, and around here the percentage is, unsurprisingly, incredibly low. Out of the thousands of people that I engage with, I know one other person who hunts.

That's still 1,724,138 people.

It's also worth noting that while blunt objects such as hammers and baseball bats find uses in construction and non-violent sports, guns do not necessarily share such innocent use cases. Sport shooting is the major exemption (I'm quite a fan, myself) but at the end of the day guns are designed to put holes (some messier than others) in objects very far away. When a gun is pointed at a living organism and the trigger is pulled, its chances of survival plummet.

> When a gun is pointed at a living organism and the trigger is pulled, its chances of survival plummet.

When a hammer is raised above someone's head and lowered with force, chances of survival plummet.

Guns are a far more useful tool than baseball bats. Guns have a non recreational purposes as functional tools, baseball bats do not.

The number of deaths per baseball bat are far higher than the number of deaths per "assault weapon", making baseball bats deadlier by far.

> The number of deaths per baseball bat are far higher than the number of deaths per "assault weapon", making baseball bats deadlier by far.

Wait, are you really claiming that a baseball bat is deadlier than an assault weapon?

Yes, per baseball bat.

If you are looking at banning something because it causes deaths. You want to look at how many deaths are caused per item.

Reducing the number of items by X will result in Y fewer deaths.

Baseball bats kill more people per baseball bat than do "assault weapons".

What other reason could you have for banning something other than reducing harm. Looking strictly at the numbers banning baseball bats would prevent more killings than banning "assault weapons".

Where are you getting:

  - The number of baseball bats available,
  - The number of baseball bat homicides,
  - The number of assault rifles available,
  - The number of assault rifle homicides
Please provide the actual numbers, and sources. We can't compare H_bat/A_bat to H_rifle/A_rifle without these.

Baseball bats kill more people per baseball bat than do "assault weapons".

What font of imaginary statistics are you pulling this ludicrous claim from? Do you know how many hundreds of millions of baseball bats there are in the United States? If we're discussing the confused, exaggerated stats that originally kicked this off, add in the billions of other "club-like" objects in circulation.

You are making absolutely ridiculous claims.

Do keep in mind that the parent was specifically referring to assault weapons, which are presumably much more rare than other firearms, and also very rarely used in crime.

I have no statistics, and I have no clue how many baseball bat deaths occur annually. I just thought maybe this would be a useful reminder.

I haven't looked up the stats lately, but IIRC, the number of times a legally owned actual assault weapon was used in a crime in the US was something like 3 or 4... ever.

It's hard to find definitive statistics on that. If you go looking around you'll see a few cases that pop up. In the early 2000s a police officer (and member of the SWAT team) used his issued MP5 to murder a few people, and sometime in the 70s a police officer found his wife in bed with another man and killed one (or both? I can't remember) of them.

The point is, like you said, it's exceedingly rare.

You're right, the stats on that are somewhat hard to find, or hard to qualify as definitive. I've seen articles that say "NO legally owned fully automatic weapon has ever been used to commit a crime" and I've seen a few articles that say the number is < 10. I don't think I've ever seen anything that even tries to argue that the number is higher than that however.

Guncite only comes up with two cases, one of which may one of the same ones you just mentioned:


There is no real definition of what an "assault weapon" is, and few restrict that to only automatic weapon.

I would say that an AR-15 is most certainly an assault weapon. It is a high power weapon (ignore the rather ignorant people who fail to understand the difference between a .22 and a .223) designed and built for military purposes. Being automatic fire or not has remarkable little relevance to its deadliness.

There is no real definition of what an "assault weapon" is, and few restrict that to only automatic weapon.

Right, because "assault weapon" is a made up term, created by the people at the Brady Campaign and other radical anti-gun groups, to promote their fear-mongering approach to advocating for more gun control. An "assault rifle" OTOH, does have a technical definition, and it does involve a full-auto or select-fire capability. A civilian AR-15 is not an assault rifle. Calling it an "assault weapon" makes as much sense as calling it a "gandering gillifrous".

It is a high power weapon (ignore the rather ignorant people who fail to understand the difference between a .22 and a .223)

Meh. A .223 is still a relatively low-powered round in the grand scheme of things. A typical .223 round has less kinetic energy than a standard 30-06 round which is used for hunting all over the United States. In fact, .223 is illegal for hunting deer and other large game in some states, because it isn't lethal enough.


Calling it an "assault weapon" makes as much sense as calling it a "gandering gillifrous".

It's purely coincidental that it is a weapon enamoured and used by so many spree killers. Purely coincidental. It's a high capacity, fast-action semi-automatic (not all semi-automatics are created equal, and the AR15 allows a practitioner to achieve automatic-rate fire) that is military built to empty clips effortlessly. Totally the same as a hunting rifle.

Meh. A .223 is still a relatively low-powered round in the grand scheme of things.

And then you point out a MASSIVE bullet used by almost no one but in bolt action rifles. A bullet that is essentially never used in the commission of murders.

Yes, and that bullet is relatively low-powered compared to a 120mm M1 KE round. Which is completely meaningless patter.

It's purely coincidental that it is a weapon enamoured and used by so many spree killers.

May be. Spree killings are actually fairly uncommon, so trying to draw any inferences from such a small data set is fraught with risk.

Totally the same as a hunting rifle.

Nobody said it was. But I, and many others, refute any assertion that an AR-15 is especially deadly compared to many (most) other commonly available civilian semiautomatic rifles.

And then you point out a MASSIVE bullet used by almost no one but in bolt action rifles. A bullet that is essentially never used in the commission of murders.

The point is that .223 is not an especially lethal round. Bringing up something like a 120mm mortar round is silly... 30-06 is a commonly used, generic-as-can-be round, which sits in boxes and boxes in stores and houses all around the USA. And it is a more "lethal" round than .223, but the anti-gun fringe jump all over .223 and the AR-15 to evoke an emotional reaction. It's pure fear-mongering and appeal to emotion.

After all, it's not just a "gun" it's "a high power, fast-action, semi-automatic assault weapon"! Which one sounds scarier and is more likely to get people all riled up? FSM forbid that the thing might even have one of those evil pistol grips or a bayonet lug, or even gasp be black...

The .223/5.56/variations is the round of choice for military units around the world. For killing/maiming people.

It's powerful (dramatically more powerful than a .22), relatively light, and can be loaded in high capacity magazines.

When the military chooses it as the round of choice for killing people, it's pretty nonsensical to try to hold it as some sort of weakling.

The .223/5.56/variations is the round of choice for military units around the world. For killing/maiming people.

It's powerful (dramatically more powerful than a .22), relatively light, and can be loaded in high capacity magazines.

Just to be clear... I'm not saying that you can't kill somebody with a firearm chambered for .223. Of course it's potentially lethal. Pretty much all firearm rounds are potentially lethal, even something like .22 Short rounds.

What I'm saying, is that the .223 is not particularly more dangerous than other common rounds, to the point that there's any reason to single it out for special attention. And the fact that military forces choose it doesn't dispute that. There are a LOT of reasons why military forces make the choices they do, and they're as likely to be economic forces as purely strategic ones.

When the military chooses it as the round of choice for killing people, it's pretty nonsensical to try to hold it as some sort of weakling.

If sheer lethal effectiveness were the only criteria used to select a round, .223 would not be the first choice for killing a human being.

Of course you can make any point with relative comparisons. Compared to a bb and a slingshot, .223 is deadly-as-fuck. But compared to many other rounds that you can commonly find firearms chambered for, it's average at best.

I love trying to find numbers for random claims. This one is a little bit tricky because none of the four numbers are readily available.

The closest numbers I can find so far are:

  Number of murders committed with blunt objects, 2010: 600 [1]
  Number of murders committed with 'rifles', 2011: 323 [2]
  Number of 'assault-style' rifles: 3.75 million [3]
  Number of baseball bats produced per year: > 1.6 million [4]
So we don't know what fraction of blunt object murders are bats, and we don't know what fraction of 'rifle' murders are 'assault-style' rifles. We also don't know for sure how many 'assault-style' rifles there, are just a random reporter's guess. We also don't know how many bats there are, just how many one company of many makes.

All this together makes me believe that no one has any basis to make any claims about the deadliness of guns versus bats, because no one knows anything about the deadliness of guns versus bats.

I certainly can't come to any conclusions either, but I can at least sketch out the bounds. If we assume that every blunt object murder is a bat and every rifle murder is an assault rifle, then there are twice as many bat murders as assault rifle murders. But the question is murder per bat versus murder per assault rifle. So how many bats are there? There are probably somewhere between 2 and 5 million bats sold each year, depending on how much of the market Hillerich & Bradsby have. If the average lifespan of a bat is 5 years and 2 million are sold per year, then we have around 10 million bats in the country. If the average lifespan is 10 years and 5 million are sold per year, then we have around 50 million bats in the US. This puts the bats : assault-rifles ratio at between 2.5 and 13.

So the way I see it, as long as no more than twice as many murders are committed by baseball bat than assault rifle, I feel comfortable saying that assault rifles are more deadly than baseball bats, using the metric of people killed / weapon. For me to feel comfortable saying that bats are more deadly than assault rifles, at least ten times as many people would need to be killed by baseball bat as are killed by assault rifles.

The numbers I could find would still allow for either conclusion -- there's just too much uncertainty in them -- but IMO it leans heavily towards the conclusion that assault rifles are deadlier.

  [1] http://www.snopes.com/politics/guns/baseballbats.asp
  [2] http://blogs.marketwatch.com/election/2013/01/16/assault-rifles-are-not-involved-in-many-u-s-murders-a-look-at-the-data/
  [3] http://www.slate.com/blogs/crime/2012/12/20/assault_rifle_stats_how_many_assault_rifles_are_there_in_america.html
  [4] http://www.answerbag.com/q_view/2136195

If we assume that every blunt object murder is a bat and every rifle murder is an assault rifle, then there are twice as many bat murders as assault rifle murders.

That assumption definitely does not hold for the technical definition of "assault rifle" which includes full-auto capability. Murders committed with fully automatic weapons are very rare, and with legally owned ones, almost completely unheard of.

Now if you use the Brady Campaign definition of "assault weapon" - which basically just translates to "scary looking gun that I don't like" then you may find different numbers.

The number for assault weapons you're using is AR-15 type rifles. That doesn't include AK-47 variants, Ruger Mini-14s, or many others that are considered "assault weapons".

There are estimated to be around 1 million Ruger Mini-14 rifles alone.

Adding all of those rifles to the number and the total number of "assault weapons" and baseball bats are likely to be fairly close--at the very least more than half of your estimate for baseball bats which would put baseball bats ahead.

Fantastic point. Considering the rifle's primary purpose, and the number of them out there, it certainly suggests the typical rifle owner must be pretty responsible.

Compare to the 200 kiddie pool deaths every summer, which have the unfortunate side effect of almost exclusively killing kids despite mostly non lethal purposes, and rifle owners start to seem extraordinarily more responsible than kiddie pool owners.

At some point, I think we might as well cut through the hyperventilation, acknowledge potentially dangerous things are potentially dangerous, and let people choose their own risk profiles.

Compare to the 200 kiddie pool deaths every summer

You have a very loose handle on facts. There are about 20 "kiddie pool" deaths in the United States in an average year. There are many more swimming pool accidents, which is exactly why there are endless regulations and safety actions around swimming pools, and it remains a serious tragedy that absolutely needs action. It is completely and outrageously unacceptable that children continue to die tragic deaths in swimming pools, and whether it's increased safety measures, or more education starting at a younger age, it is untenable and at some point in the future people will look back and marvel at the stupid risk taking that occurred.

Of course it's a garbage analogy anyways. Swimming pools provide recreation and physical activity for tens of millions of people. Guns generally sit in closets until that day it's used to commit a suicide, a robbery, a murder, etc.

I have a baseball bat in my house and it's not there to hit balls but to hit anyone who attempts to come into my home without my permission. I doubt I'll ever need to use it, but there you go, it's one single purpose is to "maim or kill", which in reality is actually protection and I'd be happy with fear itself being the deciding factor.

I don't come down on either side on gun control, they're mostly banned here in the UK and that's just how it is. However, I think you'll find most people actually consider protection is a legitimate reason to have a weapon, so you shouldn't so easily write it off.

Funny thing about the UK; so many baseball bats, so little baseball.

At least it used to be the case that many school children played rounders, and you typically use a baseball bat for that. (I don't remember what you call the bat you use for rounders - probably just "bat", as it's usually obvious from context you're not talking about cricket or golf.)

Perhaps most UK people posting here don't expect Americans to have heard of this game.

You're doubtless right that most are probably purchased for hitting people in the face, perhaps without necessarily even waiting for them to break in to one's house first.

You are correct, but it's a matter of degree. It's much, much easier to maim or kill with a gun than with a baseball bat and that's why I'm glad no one has guns in the UK. If someone comes at me with a baseball bat I can run away. If someone comes at me with a gun, I'm dead.

Not to belittle your point, but you're not necessarily dead if someone comes at you with a gun. Many factors dictate if the shooting will be fatal. For example, in far too many cases police officers and others defending themselves have had to fire multiple shots to disable or kill an attacker. And in some cases have failed. So you might not be dead.

With that said, people do have guns in the UK, just not law abiding people. Gun crime is apparently up 89% the UK since the ban as well, so there are guns in the UK:


So the points being:

1) you may survive an attack with a firearm, according to the OP it appears a majority of gunshot victims do (30k shot vs 8k killed in the US) 2) there are guns in the UK, and more gun crime since the ban went into effect. Infer from that what you will.

> 1) you may survive an attack with a firearm

Agreed, my initial claim was hyperbole. I don't think weaking my claim to "serious injury" weakens my point.

> 2) there are guns in the UK, and more gun crime since the ban went into effect. Infer from that what you will.

Twice a tiny amount is still a tiny amount.

I read somewhere about a study which suggested that some ridiculous high number of gun uses (90+% if memory serves) were resolved without discharging the gun. The thing is, these situations were rarely, if ever, reported (and if they were, it's often up to speculation if the situations would actually have led to a crime), leading to a systematic difficulty in accurately deciding the effectiveness of guns in crime prevention.

The point is, if someone pulls a gun, and you run away, they have very likely achieved their goal, and are unlikely to discharge the gun.

Bingo, and it's many studies; amusingly, the first was done with data collected by gun grabbers, and it had lower numbers since it didn't ask if the respondent had used a gun in self-defense more than once during the year.

Current numbers put self-defense gun uses at something like 2.25 million per year, with indeed way over 90% never involving a gun being discharged.

There's also a systematic difficulty in the other direction, I'm pretty sure most criminal uses of guns also don't involve it being discharged. And some fraction of those don't get reported to the police or then reported accurately, you'd need to start with the national crime survey data.

It's already been said, but if a woman or elderly person wanted to attack me with a stick, I'm pretty confident I could disarm them. If it were a gun, I would run. This is a great equaliser and in the context of me being a potential threat by trespassing into their property, I have no arguments with people owning and using a gun.

Where things get murky is those defending themselves aren't always resonable. There are countless other cases where the "victim" steps over bounds within the UK, and presumably elsewhere, and whilst I don't really support protecting criminals, I don't entirely the idea that you can murder someone for stepping on your lawn, stealing from you, or any other reason besides you feeling that you or others are going to come into direct harm.

Personally I think the US has some very strange rules with regards to guns, standing your ground and protecting your property, but we are obviously largely divided on what constitutes resonable force, which is why I don't exactly endorse guns ownership.

Which is exactly why grandma needs a gun, and not a baseball bat.

Unless you believe that defending yourself is not a legitimate use case.

Anecdotally, from what I've heard and what I observed in the Missouri CCW class I took, the demographics of concealed carry are strongly biased to the older, mostly middle-aged and older.

For exactly the reason you point out. Grandma and grandpa have gotten too old to even think of holding their own in hand to hand combat, but a very large fraction can safely use handguns. And, anecdotally, in my CCW class it was mentioned they had only failed two people, one guy who couldn't observe Rule 2 (was pointing his handgun everywhere, can't remember if he was really old), and one old lady who wasn't strong enough to rack the slide of Glock (unfortunately she gave up at that point instead of finding a solution that was within her physical capabilities).

Most shootings are survived, something like 80% for handguns.

Do you have a source for that 30,000+ figure? The FBI statistics link in this thread mentions around 8600 firearm-related murders for 2011 (but not suicide or accidents). That's the only hard data I've seen in this thread so far though.

In these sorts of threads, anecdotes and hyperbole can quickly overrule data and thoughtfulness, so I'm just hoping that numbers like "30,000+" aren't being pulled out of thin air. I'm not saying that's what you did, I'd just like to see people actually source their claims in threads like this which tend to devolve quickly.

Fatal firearms accidents are running at about 600 per year.

While the population and number of guns owned by them has increased ~50%, the absolute number of fatal accidents has dropped by 1/4th, from around 800 per year.

I suspect not all of this is due to medical advances, a lot are hunting accidents where getting to a trauma center in the "Golden Hour" (for what that's worth) isn't possible.


As others have mentioned, a hefty percentage of those deaths are suicides. Would those suicides have happened if the option of a firearm wasn't available? Perhaps.

I have to say, with no evidence to back it up, that if you want to die enough to put a barrel in your mouth, if that gun is taken away, you can find another way.

can != will

Wow. Am I get downvoted for pointing out a fallacy?


Dunno about the downvotes but is the best argument we have for reducing suicides, well if we make it more awkward then less folks will top themselves and instead will lead lives of miserable desperation?

We have to be better than harm reduction surely?

I don't have a moral problem with suicide. Like I mention elsewhere, in my country euthanasia is sometimes administered to people with certain types of depression. I think that's fine (if weirdly bureaucratic).

Thing is, often people who are depressed do get better. And I think a lot of people who end up killing themselves would have gotten better if only they hadn't. I think this is all the more the case for teenagers.

That's why I think it's worthwhile to take away opportunities to kill yourself. That means making gun possession illegal, installing safety nets, etcetera. (Within reason, of course.)

Even this comment and others are getting downvoted. What the hell… I think I'm going to call it a day here.

Japan has a very high suicide rate despite near non-existence of guns.

The issue at stake here is the counterfactual ‘If guns were (not) available, would the suicide rate be different’.

How does your (oddly specific) statistic address this question?

The suicidal find a way. Where guns are not available, in at least one major comparable example, the suicide rate is different by being higher (by a lot). Sure, guns make it easy...but there are many other easy ways.

I don't think Japan and the USA are very comparable. In fact, I think insofar modern countries are concerned you'd be hard pressed to find two countries that are more different than Japan and the USA!

No, no, not at all.

We're both "high trust" societies. Compare to the Chinese stereotype/archetype of not trusting someone outside the family to run part of the business, which helped to kill Wang in the US and abroad outside of the PRC tends to limit firms to simple types like trading companies.

I agree, we are in many ways very different, many of them fundamental, but many fundamental are similar enough.

> We're both "high trust" societies. Compare to the Chinese stereotype/archetype of not trusting someone outside the family to run part of the business, which helped to kill Wang in the US and abroad outside of the PRC tends to limit firms to simple types like trading companies.

Sure, but I explicitly excluded non-modern countries. (I have lived in China.)

> I agree, we are in many ways very different, many of them fundamental, but many fundamental are similar enough.

Okay, but you're not controlling for any variables. Like you say, there are many differences even if there are similarities too.

The incidence of suicide (and related-party homicide) in households with guns is significantly higher. Unless we believe that there's a correlation between gun ownership and suicidal tendencies, the answer seems to be, mostly no.

Having a highly-effective killing device in the home turns attempts into suicides - and a gun is an order of magnitude more effective than other common methods.


Americans would go bonkers if someone started selling a do-it-yourself euthanasia machine. But we're ok with lots of handgun sales, despite that being one of their most common uses - more common than self-defense.


People in their first week of gun ownership kill themselves 57 times more frequently than the general public. That suggests to me that people who are determined to die are buying guns for the express purpose of suicide, and would probably select some other method if it was too difficult to obtain a gun.

> In many households a firearm has one single purpose, which is to kill or maim

Or, you know... to shoot targets or clay pigeons.

'Fear is a powerful weapon' - exactly.

The media and bureaucrats want you to be afraid of your own shadow, when in fact you should be afraid of McDonalds and not wearing your seatbelt.

I don't eat McDonalds and I wear my safety belt. Other people having guns is not something I can control though, hence the justified need to control who can be given them. I don't worry about my freedom to gun people down, it's not a freedom I really want.

Firstly, I don't think anyone is advocating for their freedom to 'gun people down.'

More importantly, I don't think your interest in particular freedoms should arbitrate which ones others receive. I can understand that you don't wish to exercise your 2nd amendment rights. No one is force-handing you a gun.

Freedoms are about choices for people. "I don't want this freedom, so no one should have it," is misguided. Plenty of others are minimally interested in freedoms you enjoy. Support freedom.

I want the freedom to have claymore mines and hand grenades.

A point I've made in a previous discussion is that we clearly draw a line between directed and undirected weapons, and therefore claymores and grenades are verboten, but something like 250,000 full auto guns are legally in the hands of US citizens.

Claymores are directed. You have to point it in a particular direction and manually pull a trigger.

I don't see how it's less deadly to a crowd than a belt-fed automatic rifle

I don't know if politicians are in on this, bit of a conspiracy that I don't want to get into. However, crime and murder sell. My mother loves to watch the 10 O'Clock news every night but luckily she reads the paper and surfs the web, otherwise I think she might lose her mind. Those nightly news programs are awful. If I only watched local or even cable news and used them as my source for staying in touch with the world I'd think we were living in a complete hell hole. I live in a major city with several local news channels and they are all the same. Just murder and crime and usually some human interest piece at the very end of the broadcast. They report the worst of the worst.

Many would be better off not watching any news or reading any newspapers. Even relying on the Internet makes things tough since there's a firehose of data, and this leads to confirmation bias having a huge affect.

Yes, I agree with that. Although I have to say that I think reading the news is far better than ever watching it. When you read it you can take your time with it and selectively choose what articles you want to read rather than having a bunch of crap thrown at you at a high pace.

Agreed. Unfortunately, we've proven remarkably vulnerable to video/film as a persuasive medium.

Fortunately, we have HM to reassure ourselves we are so much smarter than everyone else.

The saying is "if it bleeds, it leads."

Because of course people are interested in this. And it doesn't have to be a stereotypical, cowelled people meeting in caves conspiracy. Instead it's an "auto-conspiracy", simply a large group of like minded people doing things in the same direction. Not even a "conspiracy" in the usual "it's secret" sense, many if not most gun grabbers are open about what they're doing enough of the time and often about their intended end goals.

That's one of the things that's driving the "counter-revolution", the gun grabbers have let their masks slip so much, have expressed so much hatred towards gun owners, that they and many many people who were just thinking about buying a gun have been buying everything useful in sight.

E.g. Illinois FOID card applications have quadrupled; that's a absolutely solid metric of people who haven't legally owned a gun up to now.

It's also down absolutely. Not just the rate.

Well yeah, the size of the population would have to be changing pretty rapidly for that not to be the case.

> Emotional outrage > rational analysis

Incredibly true, I'm afraid.

In fact, I'd also add

  advertising > rational analysis
  indoctrination > rational analysis
  political bias > rational analysis
  gratification > rational analysis
These all seem to be qualities we see in the "mass public." Whether it's consumerism, mercurial emotion, or a "save the children" mentality to politics, no one has common sense or the capacity to rationally analyze anything anymore, which is extremely sad.

I'd have to attribute this to the general attitude of ignorance that seems to infect and grow and devastate minds.

When I was in 3rd grade, I asked my teacher why the sun was an inexhaustible resource even when it would eventually collapse and implode, and she said, "Well, it's not going to collapse in our lifetime."

Again, cultivating an attitude of "Just take everything for granted and don't overthink and introspect at all," which, fortunately, I wasn't a victim of. This attitude leads to political ignorance, emotion > reason, consumerism, and also effective advertising.

If it weren't true, The "Learning" Channel, MTV, VH1, Fox News, and MSNBC would not exist today.

But they do.

Yeah, it was called the crack epidemic.

The drop is all the more remarkable considering that there are at least 168,000,000 more guns in circulation in the US now than when gun homicide peaked in 1993.[1]

[1]: https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/nics/reports/1998_2013_sta...

"These statistics represent the number of firearm background checks initiated through the NICS. They do not represent the number of firearms sold. Based on varying state laws and purchase scenarios, a one-to-one correlation cannot be made between a firearm background check and a firearm sale."

I imagine the total's quite a bit lower than the stated figure since many of these background checks would be for transfers and sales of used weapons, not always just new guns entering the system. I also imagine some people go through the background check but then for one reason or another don't complete the sale. Still, the number of new guns in circulation is likely very large.

Also keep in mind that one background check may represent the sale of several firearms.

One additional data point - nearly 9 million guns were manufactured or imported into the US in 2010 alone: http://www.businessinsider.com/more-gun-stores-in-america-th...

From the same article, it says there were 16.5 million background checks during 2010. Perhaps the ratio between the number of new guns manufactured/imported into the U.S. is relatively stable with the number of background checks. If so, 168M background checks since 1993 would mean about 90M new guns in the United States during that period.

To keep the numbers relative, US Population:

1993: 257,746,103

2012: 315,809,000

= 58,062,897 more people since 1993.

So 2.8x as many guns than population increase.

Maybe it's an economic indicator? Collecting guns is a popular hobby, so perhaps a rise in gun sales correlates to a rise in the economic standing of gun collectors?

100 million modern, collectible guns seems unlikely.

(I agree that there are lots of people that like to collect guns, I just don't think they could possibly be driving (that much) manufacturing, making a lot of something makes it less collectible.)

Your point seems reasonable & logical. But in my experience, it's also incorrect: Plenty of gun collecting is predominantly around modern, mass-produced, non-scarce guns. I believe it's because scarcity is not a significant driver of value, in most gun owners' minds. Gun collectors derive a large portion of their guns' value from using (firing) them in a sports setting. Contrast with art or stamps, which don't really have recreational uses, just "stand-back-and-appreciate-it" value. Some guns DO have this museum-style appreciation-value, too, but the contribution is negligable WRT most mass-produced, modern guns. Also, modern guns have plenty of mythological cachet. Film & video games have celebrated and iconified the distinctive lines of particular guns, like the AR-15 and its variants. Even with millions of ARs in circulation, it may have a higher "cool factor" than an older, rarer flintlock pistol, especially to the younger set. Which brings me to my final point: In the US, gun ownership appears to be on the rise, lately, in non-traditonal demographics. More so than in decades past, you'll find new gun owners trendng: * young * politically liberal * high disposable income * shooting paper or zombies, not hunting * getting introduced to guns via friends, not family They buy guns for the same reason they buy video games--Fun. To that end, their buying habits tend toward the gun equivalents of the Honda Civic or Jeep Wrangler: Reliable, cost-effective, semi-automatic. Generally, that means a modern, mass-produced gun.

We should just find some statistics. For instance, this article pegs the number of AR 15s in the United States in the low millions:


It makes a credible case for less than 5 million. So you only need 20 or 30 similarly collectible guns to get to 100 million.

We also should not bother to argue too much over what constitutes collecting (that is, we should find middle ground or agree to disagree and abandon the whole discussion). I certainly wouldn't include someone buying 1 or 2 reliable and cost effective guns.

As I note elsewhere, also run the numbers on how much gun owners have invested in firearms. If, as one person did using the latest figures including the clearly too low ownership rate from surveys, the average is $100K then....

Plenty of gun collecting is predominantly around modern, mass-produced, non-scarce guns.

Absolutely. Plenty of gun-owners are just flat-out "gearheads" in the same sense as guitar players (who often own dozens of guitars and amps) or whatever. If I had money to burn, I personally would own a few dozen guns, and most of my collection would fall into the "modern, mass produced, non-scarce" category. The exceptions would be a few older military rifles, like maybe an M1 .30 carbine, an M1 Garand rifle, or an old British Lee-Enfield 303 rifle.

My "to buy" list looks very similar. Mostly modern firearms that serve a functional purpose with a few 'fun' guns (like an M1 Garand and Five-seveN) thrown in for either their historical value or 'cool factor.'

If you're in an evil state, not counting NY, the Garand is an eminently practical weapon. Get it rebarreled in .308/7.62 NATO and the ammo is less expensive.

I have a friend in Illinois who's soon going to be moving back to Maryland, he's a WWII buff and has a M1911 (Argentine) and a beautiful Garand in .308 and he doesn't have to worry about those or any other state's "assault weapons" bans, except again NY, where you're only allowed to load 7 rounds in your magazines....

Recharging it with its 8 rounds clips is quick, and in general it's one of the most ergonomic gun designs of the century, e.g. it has very little in the way of protrusions to catch.

Agreed on FN's 5.7mm stuff, though; fun, but with a round only about 10% more powerful than the hottest .22 rimfire magnum, not practical except in full auto, which thanks to the Hughes amendment means we can't own any. But, boy, would I like to own a PS90 ... just can't justify it.

Oh, collecting has a lot to do with it even if they're current mass-produced products. It's easy to get into the mode of "I want one of those...and one of those...and one of those...and one of those...and one of those...and one of those...". It's accentuated by political attempts to limit acquisition of guns, leading to "I'd better get everything I want NOW while I still can!"

Possible cause and effect? That's one of the claims of the folks who promote private gun ownership.

While I'm a gun supporter, I think the decline in overall crime has more to do with the reduction in environmental lead: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/lead-crime-li...

Interesting theory... but to really evaluate it you'd have to consider all environmental changes that could impact mental behavior. The usage rates of various legal and illicit drugs shift over time, as does the content of our food supply. It'd be a tough analysis, but I'd bet it would produce some interesting results.

Actually I forget where I read it but there is a hypothesis going around that the overall crime reduction has to do more with liberalization of things like birth control and access to abortion options.

At work at the moment and don't have time to pull up the details until tonight, but the examples given say of romania where none of the above is legally available still has a high crime rate. The general gist of things are that having to keep around kids a parent doesn't want tends to lead to bad outcomes for the children in life. Its much more complex than that and obviously we can't run randomized trials across multiple generations to validate things (not that it would even be ethical), but its interesting nonetheless.

> the overall crime reduction has to do more with liberalization of things like birth control and access to abortion options.

Freakonomics says this.

Great book. That chapter was a little awkward to read (for me) but it made sense.

That has mostly been shown to only have mild statistical relevancy, not nearly enough to be the majority of the explanation.

The Freakonomics explanation (I just finished reading that chapter), says legalized abortion was a major contributor to decreasing crime rates in the 90's. However there were other contributing factors too. Author notes that it wasn't the "innovative policing strategies" of NYC that helped decrease crime rate, but the fact that they hired so many more police. There's a correlation there too. There's also a lot of discussion about crack cocaine and how that increased crime at its peak, but then related crime subsided.

There's also 58,500,000 more human beings in the US than when gun homicide peaked in 1993.

If you're going to talk about gun inflation, it helps to also mention human inflation.

Fair point. As mentioned elsewhere, the gun delta is ~3x the population delta.

Whatever drives violent crime in the U.S. does not seem to be the presence or absence of guns.

The white murder rate in America is about the same as it is in Europe/Canada, etc. The black murder rate is about the same as it is in parts of Africa. (Something like 10x the white rate.)

First look here to get a rough idea of the murder rate in different parts of the globe:


Take a look here for the murder rate in different American states:


Notice how this is a very similar list:


With some corrections for urbanization, the correlation is even more extreme.

Also see the discussion and figures here: http://www.lagriffedulion.f2s.com/hispanic.htm

Your Wikipedia link shows that the US murder rate is 4.8, the rates for Western, Southern and Northern Europe are 1.0, 1.4 and 1.5 respectively. Eastern Europe has a higher rate of 6.4. If you are looking at economic similarity Western, Northern and some of Southern Europe are comparable to the US. So the murder rates are very different.

Most gun stats blithely show aggregate rates of gun ownership and gun-related homicides, and the public reacts in fear; who wants to live in a country like that?

But criminal-on-criminal violence is a disproportionate share. Are we supposed to think that the presence of guns is what drives the violence, or is it possibly that you've got millions of young men with no jobs and nothing constructive to do, with parents who don't care to bring them up right (or who can't control them), running drugs and fighting turf wars, cooking up ways to make bank? There's an argument that for some people, access to guns creates an opportunity; but there's a lot more at work here than that.

There's a social rot underneath it all -- and I'd venture that gun violence in the US is a symptom of the rot rather than guns being a cause. It seems remarkably dangerous to me to demonize the mechanism by which someone murders another person in the name of progress; politicians feel like they're accomplishing something, even though we still have a bunch of people willing to kill someone, if only they had the means.

There's significant collective cognitive dissonance in American society on this topic, I think.

Nobody seems to mention the reason I think accounts for a good deal of the drop, which is simply the perception that you're going to get caught is much higher. Up until the mid 90's there wasn't even DNA analysis. The world was a much simpler place, no cameras everywhere, cell phones, internet, and a myriad of other ways to be tracked. The rise of technology in law enforcement coupled with the non stop blasting of crime shows depicting criminals getting caught (e.g. CSI) has greatly increased the perception that you will not get away with murder. Today most sane people at least view it as something extremely risky and hard to get away with. Even to the destitute gun crime is not a very attractive option these days, whereas 20+ years ago it wasn't nearly as big a deal. Of course there's a handful of other factors, but I think the perceived likelihood of being caught is probably the most significant.

My theory is that the advent of a popular internet itself deters people from violence. No science to back it up, of course. But people spend more time watching TV and using the internet; it leaves less time to be outside getting physically rowdy with others and creating these heated moments.

Others may be unaware of the shift in suicide rates by firearm:

"The sharp decline in the U.S. gun homicide rate, combined with a slower decrease in the gun suicide rate, means that gun suicides now account for six-in-ten firearms deaths, the highest share since at least 1981."

Looks like the suicide rate has been on the decline since the 1950s as well: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0779940.html

But what about "Suicide Rates Rise Sharply in U.S. (nytimes.com)" https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5647015

That article seems to touch only on one subgroup of people and not the overall suicide rate.

Yep, misleading headline ahoy

Please keep the politics out of HN.

Edit: Referring to some of the comments in this thread, not the article.

Agreed. There aren't any comments on this article that I couldn't have read on reddit. Topics like this will always generate a lot of comments and discussion since it's very easy to have an opinion on it (vs more technical topics).

I am totally with you on this although meta-discussions are usually not allowed.

I hope pg and moderators find that there is more value in building a community that talks more about technology and startups than the growing group of single minded group of prolific downvote button clickers who make others want to stop participating.

You've been around here long enough to know HN is full of political issues and has been for years.

I fail to see how review and discussion of statistical information equates to politics. Facts are not political.

You really can't see that? Do you think there's the odd chance the ensuing discussion might - just might - deviate from the discussion of some numbers?

My inclination is that we will see yet another reenactment of a famous internet flame war.

It is possible, and likely will happen. However, the OP is completely relevant.

Real facts aren't political, and all facts taken together aren't political. But statistics are often biased or flat out incorrect because of political ends, and the selective dissemination of statistics is political.

I'd argue this is up to the folks commenting rather than the OP, which is a link to some polling that produced a bunch of data points. It can be strictly analytical without blowing up into petty arguments.

Not that it will.

Just a sanity check: "Researchers have studied the decline in firearm crime and violent crime for many years, and though there are theories to explain the decline, there is no consensus among those who study the issue as to why it happened."

If I had to guess, I'd say it's because it's harder to get away with a gun crime now than it used to be. TV shows like CSI probably have more to do with the decline in gun violence than any other environmental factors.

It's probably a combination of things, but the correlation to the banning of lead seems to be the highest of any other single reason.


Some have suggested that the decline in crime in the 90's was due to abortion - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legalized_abortion_and_crime_ef...

Assuming deterrence is the most significant factor in the decline. Additionally, I'm not sure the gang-bangers are watching CSI.

End the drug war and it drops even more if you don't count suicides (since that's not really a homicide) and you're only left with the occasional nutter with a gun(s).

If you live outside of a high crime area, and you aren't involved in criminal activity the chances, of being shot are drastically reduced below the average.

I have many foreign friends, and most are surprised to learn I've never seen a gun used in a violent crime. They have a hard time seeing past Hollywood and the press's portrayal of America. Of course, they don't live here.

Agreed. I live in Flint, MI (#1 in violent crime, 2 years running) and have yet to personally see any violent crime first hand, and I live just north of the worst part of the city.

"Violent non-fatal crime victimization overall (with or without a firearm) also is down markedly (72%) over two decades."

So, gun crime's falling significantly slower than crime in general, which may account for the public perception.

Since you're comparing gun crimes to all crimes, doesn't that mean that non-gun crime rates are also falling lower than crime in general (includes with or without firearms)?

Public perception is being driven by a media with an anti-gun agenda.

No, because he compared percentages. If gun crime has fallen by 50% and overall crime by 72%, that means non-gun crime has fallen by more than 72%, i.e. much faster than gun crime. Or to put it another way, more crime is being committed with guns than before. Reality's well-known liberal bias strikes again.

"Or to put it another way, more crime is being committed with guns than before."

Um... no.

>"Violent non-fatal crime victimization

Why are you comparing violent non-fatal crime, to gun homicides?

He answered your question in his second line, " . . . gun crime's falling significantly lower than crime in general." Yes, he's comparing violent non-fatal crime to gun homicides. He's making a comparison of gun homicides to general crime, and the rate of change.

His second line started with "So". Meaning that it was derived from the fact in the first line.

The second line doesn't follow from the first as it is implied.

You can't get "gun crime is falling more slowly than crime in general" from that statistic, because "general crime" includes homicides which were removed from that statistic. It is entirely possible that if you add in homicides that overall crime is decreasing faster.

Below certain numbers, it might be relatively harder to reduce some crimes than others. For instance, there might always be people who are determined to kill their spouse; but it might be easier to reduce the number of people who see stealing things as useful.

I don't really know, but it would be interesting to see some numbers. Is there some kind of minimum murder rate that can't be lowered further just with laws (i.e. some more fundamental cultural change is required)?

If so, then we might be approaching that minimum (for the current US culture/society) and that could explain why they aren't decreasing much any more.

Well.. that's not to say a rate of 3.2 is a good rate. The U.S. still is far above most western countries, which typically have something like 0.x or even 0.0x homicides per 100.000.


Interesting data. Thanks.

And, wow, look at US's suicide rate.

That's only the suicide rate by those who use a gun. Compare actual overall suicide rates and the US is pretty average and very close to the rate in the UK, Canada, France, etc: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_suicide_r...

Some may call me crazy, but I have a hunch that the decline in gun homicide, and crime in general, is related to gaming.

There is frequently a claim that it's the FPS and other violent games that trigger mass shootings. Although I believe that there is an negative effect, I also believe that that negative effect is essentially all but negated by other outcome positive effects of gaming. I feel like there might be net positive outcomes related to those who would in the past have been the types who felt the need to enforce their ego through violence, posturing, and domination. Additionally, because those types of people / kids would then also not have come in contact with "mentors" who would groom them, there could also be a cycle-interrupting process going on here.

Might be related to pornography as well.

SuperFreakonomics attributed the dramatic drop in crime in the 1990s to Roe vs Wade. http://www.freakonomics.com/2005/05/15/abortion-and-crime-wh...


A number of people disagree with that conclusion based on seemingly reasonable scientific arguments.

Furthermore, if it's meant to be an argument for abortion, it really has no effect on the pro-life position.

If you start with the understanding that a baby in the womb is a human, this arguments sounds like "it's good that we have legal murder because it prevents illegal murder".

That's mostly likely a factor but 100% of the story. The decrease of lead in soil is another. http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/lead-crime-li...

If gun homicide is truly down 49% then why so much controversy over wether or not they should be allowed and what not. This will constantly be an ongoing battle for years to come over gun control. Why blame the gun for random acts of violence when violence is truly uncontrolable. Before there were guns people still committed horrendous crimes. It's the corrupted mind not the weapon.

One of the factors in reducing gun homicide is we have gotten better since 1993 at keeping people alive after they have been shot.

I am interested in the change per capita of gun shot victims as a whole.

Well back in 1993, almost 49% of households had a gun. Today the number is 32%. That alone is a 35% drop in gun ownership.

There are so many other factors that could play a role here. And none of them negate the need for common sense gun regulations and re-funding research on both gun and non-gun violence.

See https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5675330; you're talking about the number of households that admit to owning a gun, not the real number.

That's somewhere around the middle of the nationwide sweep of shall issue concealed carry regimes, now totalling 42 states and 2/3rds of the population. Such an astounding political development---there were 2-3 states when Florida opened the floodgates in 1987---wouldn't seem to correlate with lower ownership rates.

As for this so called research, would you be talking about the output of people like Dr. Mark Rosenberg, director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the CDC in 1994 when he said objective was to make people see firearms as “dirty, deadly—and banned.”

Any wonder the NRA and gun owners in general were able to get the Congress to ban such "research"? And aren't you a bit disturbed by the violations of the rule of law of Obama ignoring these laws?

"you're talking about the number of households that admit to owning a gun, not the real number"

Looks like you either didn't read the short sentence I posted, or didn't think about it before responding, because that doesn't say anything against the evidence that there is lower gun ownership today than there was 20 years ago, only that the actual percentage back then AND now is likely higher than surveys suggest, but there is still a strong trend downward in gun ownership.

And for this "so called research", I'm talking about the NIH and CDC research into gun violence that was cut off under pressure by the NRA in 1996: http://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2013/02/gun-violence.as...

Research for example that showed that owning a gun increases the likelihood of harm done to or by a family member or acquaintance.

Heh, your own descriptions of the research impeach it. "Acquaintance" of course includes e.g. drug dealers killing each other. They are generally "acquaintances" if not exactly friends, or friends any more; in general, stranger murders are relatively rare.

And your citation first mentions Arthur Kellerman, who's infamous for scoring undesired civilian deaths vs. civilians killing criminals, when such killing cannot legally be and is not the objective, stopping them is. There are many other problems with his "research", but when it's invalid at that high a level we hardly need to go into the details.

You didn't even bother to read the article, it says "family member or intimate acquaintance." If you're intimate with "drug dealers killing each other" then I stand corrected.

Household says nothing about the number of guns or the gun availability. Your granddad's rusty shotgun sitting your closet counts as the entire household "owning" a gun.

The average household size is smaller today than it was in 1993, meaning that it's possible that more individuals actually own guns.

It appears that gun homicide rate increased under Bush Sr. (~5.6 => 7.0) and Jr.(3.8 => 4.0), and declined under Reagan(6.6 => 5.6), Clinton (7.0 => 3.8) and Obama (4.0 =>3.6).

Numbers are in death/100,000 people, (+/-0.1 because they were read from the graph[0]).

A t-test on the yearly rate of change, yields a p-value of 0.002. (in Excel =T.TEST(A1:A12, B1:B14,1,3)).

Did the Bush have a peculiar approach regarding crime fighting?

[0] http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2013/05/SDT-2013-05-gun...

A big part of the perception problem is that gangs have spread out or have left the larger urban environments in favor of smaller cities and suburbs with no resources.

So people see gang activity in places like Albany, NY or Springfield, MA or some suburb in Tennessee and hear about 15 year old gang members carrying handguns. They associate that real social problem with the tools that they are carrying.

That combined with pandering politicians and advocacy group funded PR efforts that land gun related incidents on the TV everyday leads to the present situation.

As with most things, follow the money. Who benefits the most when the public is frightened of gun violence (and also being told to arm themselves)?

Similarly, war deaths (as a portion of total death) have been decreasing incredibly. Yet, globally we keep increasing our spending on military. And, the public is frightened of war. Some would say that the spending on military has been the major deterrent to war. But, studies show the decrease is more related to rises in democracy and global trade.

I wonder if the increase in available distractions, such as video games, has something to do with it.

And I don't know the name of the theory, but stats don't really relate well to certain events, such as taking a bullet. If took_a_bullet = false, then are you really thinking about the odds? If took_a_bullet = true, then you've got bigger problems than becoming a statistic.

The focus on "gun violence" or "gun homicides" instead of just violence or homicides strikes me as very strange.

If you try to talk about violence, people are going to ask whether it is higher or lower than before. The fact that it is lower eliminates fear and sensationalism and the conversation dries up to little more than local police budget issues.

But if you talk about gun violence, people will generally have an opinion regardless of the facts, and won't tend to ask questions. That's why everyone has a strong opinion but few know that it's actually a declining problem.

Of course they're unaware. It's harder to keep fear alive when information like this gets out.

Both sides know this. But each side is convinced that it benefits more from a fearful populace than an unafraid populace, and that the reverse is true for its opposition. And so the fearmongering continues.

In a totally and completely unrelated fact, the rate of gun ownership is also down 30% since the 1980's. It's almost as if the two may have a relationship, but that certainly cannot be the case because the NRA has spent a jillion dollars telling me otherwise!

All of those statistics that I've seen, claiming that rates of ownership are down, are based on surveys.

What do you think are common reactions from gun owners when a nosy stranger calls them on the phone and asks if they own a gun?

Might it have correlations with the Zeitgeist created by the gun grabbers, especially when they dance on the blood of victims like with Newtown?

I haven't run the numbers myself, but someone's claimed that if you mash these all together, the post-Newtown "admits to owning a firearm" + the number known to be outstanding (we have solid figures on legal production and imports) and the population, the average gun owner owns about $100K worth of firearms.

See also solid evidence like Illinois FOID application rates as I mentioned elsewhere in this topic. By definition those are from people who haven't previously legally owned guns, and they've quadrupled since Newtown.

^ this. No one I know who is a gun owner would say "yes" if called as part of a survey and asked if they own guns.

> It's almost as if the two may have a relationship

Negative correlation would be my guess[1]. Where do I get my NRA check for telling you that?

[1] https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=10129

Less people may own guns, but the people who own them own more per person than they used to.

That said, most guns used in homicides aren't used by the/a registered owner.

That's interesting, because someone else pointed out a large increase in the total number of guns. Can you provide a link for that figure?

So there are more guns in circulation, but distributed amongst fewer people? This doesn't surprise me.

The article seems to disagree with you:

>The number of firearms available for sale to or possessed by U.S. civilians (about 310 million in 2009, according to the Congressional Research Service) has grown in recent years, and the 2009 per capita rate of one person per gun had roughly doubled since 1968. It is not clear, though, how many U.S. households own guns or whether that share has changed over time.

I'm surprised no one here has made mention of the correlation between led in the atmosphere and violent crime.


Please, please do yourself a favour and read Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined - a breathtaking tour-de-force backed by strong, robust, varied evidence.

Homicide rates in the US are still significantly higher than other developed nations, so there's a long way to go:

    US 4.8 per 100,000 in 2012
    UK 1.2
    France 1.1
    Germany 0.8
    Japan 0.4

I wonder why this paper doesn't use the statistics from 2012, which show an uptick to 4.8?

It's unfair to compare the best state-sized countries with the entire United States, which has several states 7+ but also several 2 and under. It would be better to compare the US to the closer-sized Europe, which is 3.5. Still a legitimate difference, but not nearly as stark.

Why are you comparing based on size? Surely it is sensible to try and compare economically similar. Western and Northern Europe is probably the best comparison, with a combined population of something like 280 Million, not too far from the US. The murder rates are 1.0 and 1.5 respectively, far lower than the US. The whole of Europe includes Eastern Europe which is much less similar to the US and has a higher murder rate.

The figures are adjusted for population, so I don't see why size would affect the figures, and as the other poster said comparing recently joined Eastern European states with the US is not very useful as they are at a very different stage of development. If you break it down by states almost every US state has statistics far worse than Western Europe, to which they should be fairly comparable.

There are lots of variables here, including varying gun ownership, gun control, and states like Switzerland show you can have ownership without high rates of killing (though they restrict ammo), but widespread private ownership for self-defence in the US does seem to correlate with high rates of homicide (inc. suicide), and other countries with tighter restrictions and a different attitude to guns have far lower rates of death associated with firearms.

There are a few theories (I've not seen mentioned here) as to why crime is down so much. Not certain how valid they are but are food for thought. Some external reasons crime may be down:

- The ban on lead in gasoline and other products, the contamination of which tended to create dumber and more impulsive people.

- The legalization of abortion, resulting in fewer unwanted, unsupervised children.

I didn't read the article, but am going to make a commentary anyway. I take from this declining violent crime stat, that we still have a long way to go in eradicating violent crimes (both gun and non gun related). /soapbox

Of course it is. All violent crime is down.

That has nothing to do with the fact that kids are still accidentally getting shot.

I propose a new law; if a child (under 18) is found in possession of a gun the gun owner is fined $50,000. If the gun's ownership cannot be established, the parents or legal guardians are fined $50,000 instead.

People might be a little more serious about locking up their guns and not letting their kids play with them.

Dumb parents never seemed to be scared of their kids accidentally shooting each other but and one of them dies, maybe they'd be scared of them accidentally shooting each other and owing $50,000.

What a silly law. Why don't we fine people $50,000 every time they do anything irresponsible or dangerous. Surely that would make our society safe and responsible!

Seriously, no one is going to pay heed to this law because how would you ever get caught? No one thinks their kid is going to get into their guns, if they did they would do something to prevent it. I can't believe you actually suggest that someone would care more about a $50,000 fine than if their kid shot themself or someone else.

I don't own any guns now, but some of my earliest and fondest memories are of shooting guns with my dad. I think it started when I was seven... I was never allowed to use guns on my own, only with strict supervision with safety gear etc.

If the government was really worried about children getting into guns, they wouldn't set up a bunch of pointless fines, they would start an educational campaign (maybe even get the NRA involved) reminding people that if they have guns they should secure them and teach their children the dangers of guns etc.

Honestly its not that hard, get a cheap gun safe, lock your guns up, keep the key on your key chain. Be an actual parent and educate your children. Problem solved.

Exactly. I grew up with guns in the house. My dad would take us out shooting all the time. But as a kid, I would never even think of going into my dad's room without permission. And if I did venture in there, I certainly would not have touched the rifle he kept under the bed or the .357 he kept in the sock drawer. It was called respect. Respect for authority. Respect for the fire arms. Respect. We have a lack of that these days.

Indeed; my father started taking all of us out hunting at age 3, and if we wanted to go dove hunting at age 10 (it's a safe type where he could and would be right next to us in the beginning), started teaching me how to shoot ~ 1st grade, and I was allowed to use firearms without supervision before 18. Not a lot before 18, but such a proposed law ... well, it totally ignores rural realities, e.g. "Kill that cottonmouth NOW!"

And kids are getting killed accidentally via a number of other methods that don't garner the anti-gun media's attention:

Selected Causes of Death, Ages 0-19, per 100,000 Population (2007) Cause Number of Deaths Mortality Rate Unintentional Injury 11,560 14.0 Motor Vehicle 6,683 8.1 Drowning 1,056 1.3 Fire/Burn 544 0.7 Poisoning 972 1.2 Suffocation/Strangulation 1,263 1.5 Firearm 138 0.2 Homicide 3,345 4.1 Firearm 2,186 2.7 Suicide 1,665 2.0 Firearm 683 0.8 Suffocation/Strangulation 739 0.9 Poisoning 133 0.2

Now this is 6 year old data. But accidental death by firearm isn't the danger that it would appear, compared to other threats.


Yeah and all those other problems probably have solutions that could reduce the numbers too. Such as having much more stringent driving tests in the US.

Firearms are still responsible for 3,007 out of the 16570 non-natural deaths listed. Or 18%. That's not insignificant.

The solution is not to throw up your hands in the air and say "Oh well there's a bunch of reasons why kids die. Let's not bother doing anything."

I'm not throwing up my hands. I'm pointing to facts. And you're conflating suicides with accidental deaths and homicides. Curiously, the link I posted only breaks out homicides via firearms. According to the CDC, firearms constitute around 84% of the weapons used in homicides for ages 5-19 in 2005. The previous study has it at 65%, so it dropped 19% in two years.

If child/young adult safety is truly the goal, then there are far bigger fish to fry than controlling firearms.

>People might be a little more serious about locking up their guns and not letting their kids play with them.

People are serious about not letting their kids play with guns.

You make it seem like this happens a lot.

In 2007 there were 122 children killed accidentally by firearm.

Sugar breakfast cereal is a far greater danger to kids than guns.

I'm not sure you understand how common a diversion target practice (even shooting tin cans) and small-game hunting is for rural American youths.

The Boy Scouts even have separate Rifle Shooting and Shotgun Shooting merit badges.

Yes and I got both of them.

But giving them up is a small price to pay for fewer dead kids.

I don't see a rational weighing of costs and benefits here.

In particular, you should examine the risk of other activities that you consider acceptable for children, like swimming or going on a car trip to visit relatives in another state.

And you should also consider how many lives would reasonably be saved by your law, which might not work out as perfectly as you think.

Similar policies have worked brilliantly with alcohol and tobacco, or so I hear.

This is an awfully wrong approach. As with things like Alcohol, if you teach your children how to operate and act responsibly, they get into less trouble with it as an adult.

If you stilt their growth and don't allow them to touch a gun until they're 18, they won't have developed enough to handle it themselves without supervision.

Wait are you advocating we lower the drinking age to produce more responsible drinkers?

I think you'll find most irresponsible drinkers started before 21 anyway.

"I think you'll find most irresponsible drinkers started before 21 anyway."

Drinking illegally at 18 years old might lead to different outcomes than drinking legally at the same age.

Starting before 21 legally != Starting before 21 illegally

You'd be surprised how much of a difference it makes when you remove the rebelliousness and allure of doing something illegally. You see this time and time again with parents sheltering their children from certain activities or harsh realities.

It's not across-the-board illegal for a child to possess a gun in the US, although it varies by state.

Age-based gun restrictions are usually about non-parents selling or giving guns to minors, or carrying in public without adult supervision.

Firearms accidents are not a common cause of death; according to the CDC they amount to about 1% of all accidental deaths of young people.


I would suggest we focus on swimming pools, which are a far bigger threat to children, before we focus on gun accidents.

Suffice to say that 99.9% of all parents value their children's lives more than any amount of money or even their own life, so a fine is a trivial persuader. That other 0.1% can't comprehend safety nor would have $50K to lose.

dmix is right - here in the UK the UK Peace Index [1] (a rather hippie name for respected peer reviewed sociology) shows massive drops across the board for violent crime.

[1] http://www.visionofhumanity.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/U...

That's not what the national crime survey says! And I think the police statistics as well (those can and are often fudged).

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