A reader of my first post, Can we toughen gun regulations without threatening the 2nd Amendment rights of United States Citizens-, commented that it would be helpful to see more data relating to how gun-related violence has either increased with the population, or decreased over the past several years. That seemed like a pertinent question, and so I’ve done some research and come up with some numbers and charts that I found interesting – and also unexpected in many cases.
First, and perhaps most unexpectedly, it appears that individual gun ownership has gone down, even as gun sales have surged upwards. That is to say, although the United States boasts enough guns for every man, woman and child in the country, the number of households that actually have guns is at its lowest point in over 40 years.
Gun sales, on the other hand, have increased on a regular basis. The graph below from a Wonkblog article in the Washington Post indicates that, on average, there were more than 8 guns per gun-owning household in 2013.
That does not mean each household has eight guns. The majority of urban households may have only one or two guns, while in rural areas, it might be more common to see a greater number of firearms due to more opportunity to hunt, more family members living on the same property, and the need for better protection due to the solitary nature of rural life. Inner-cities might also contain a disproportionate number of guns per household, depending on the particular neighborhood. Gun collectors could also account for a higher than usual amount of weaponry. Statistics are hard to come by, because the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 (see previous post) forbids the government from having a database, or national registry of gun ownership.
Nevertheless, The United States has a higher per-capita gun ratio than any European country, as well as other countries such as Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq. http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/small-arms-survey-countries-with-the-most-guns-1.3392204.
According to the United States Census Bureau, our population has been growing at a steady pace for the last century. The following chart shows the growth rate from 1980 to July of 2016.
In the next chart, with combined statistics from the CDC, Bureau of Justice Statistics, and www.gunviolencearchive.org, we see a peak in firearm deaths in the early 1990s and then a sharp decline in the late 1990s, where the level has remained. Although not proof of the effectiveness of these laws, the figures suggest The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which was enacted in 1993, and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act in 1994 may have played a part in the reduction of gun violence.
This chart shows the number of mass shootings that have occurred during the same time period. Notice that prior to 2006 there were only 4 years out of 23 that had mass shootings 3 or more times. In the last 10 years, only 1 year (2010) had less than 3 mass shootings. Each segment is a singular shooting incident.
This could indicate that easier access to high capacity firearms and ammunition, due to a loosening of gun regulations, has led to more fatalities. (This chart does not include the most recent shooting where Dallas police officers were targeted on July 7th, 2016. Five officers died and another 7 were injured, as well as 2 civilians, by sniper fire.) As shown in the Firearm Deaths graph, in 2004 a ban on assault weapons was not renewed by congress, and assault-type weapons seem to be the weapon of choice for most mass shooters.
This next chart gives a fairly recent look at the gun deaths by state. It also shows that both suicides and murders were on the decline as far back as the mid ‘90s. During that period there were stricter gun regulations. Of course, there are other factors to consider, too. The economy, for one thing, can play a big part in violence and suicide rates.
To round out the facts, this last chart shows the number of non-fatal gunshot injuries, as well as the related deaths in mass shootings over the 30 years between 1982 and 2012.
If the totality of all this data is any indication, then one might have to say that although population growth has increased at a steady rate, singular homicides have dropped substantially while mass shootings have increased exponentially, even though overall gun ownership itself is down.
[Special note] There is no data to deny or support concern that the News Media or Social Media play any particular role in the amount of gun violence, but some people suggest that media attention could be a contributing factor, just as some suggest that violence on television or in movies, and the violent nature of modern video games could be a contributor. But these ideas are just speculation – and possibly food for thought in a future conversation.Read More