The FBI regularly produces the most accurate crime statistics for the United States. It usually takes them six to nine months to compile the figures and publish their report after the end of the year. We have just seen the report for 2015 and it looks like the murder and violent crime rate has increased for the first time in years.
Since the early 1990s the violent crime and murder rate has been dropping precipitously, reducing by nearly 50 percent in only a couple decades. Over the last two decades the murder and violent crime rate has continued to plummet despite the marked increase in firearms and ammunition sales, a situation which seems to directly contradict the notion that the best way to reduce crime is to “get guns out of people’s hands.”
This reversal in the trend might be seen by some (like me) as an anomalous bump in an otherwise undeniable trend pending further information. But the usual sources are already chomping at the bit to pin the increase in murders on the “vile gun culture” in the United States. From the New York Times’ reporting:
Fueling the surge in murders was street violence in a handful of major cities, notably Baltimore, St. Louis, Washington, D. C., and Milwaulkee, where most of the victims were young Anrican-American males. The F.B.I. reported that guns were used in nearly three-quarters of the nation’s 15,696 murders during 2015.
The fact that the majority of this increase in murders comes from large urban centers with relatively strict gun control regimes is particularly interesting. Chicago is the obvious major standout in the numbers, a city with the most restrictive gun control laws in the United States yet somehow those laws aren’t stopping the situation. Also on the list are Washington, D.C. as well as Baltimore, Maryland — two more places with incredibly restrictive gun control laws.
I don’t think that anyone looks at these numbers and rejoices. Everyone thinks that murder is terrible (except murderers, probably). The differences between us is our approach to dealing with violent crime.
Gun control activists want to take the “herd immunity” idea to its logical extreme, eliminating firearms for everyone so no one will ever get hurt. Gun rights folks point out that the idea doesn’t work in practice — that we need to focus on enabling victims to defend themselves and actually putting effort into crime reduction policies that will actually have an impact.
Until we solve that debate we won’t be able to solve the Chicago’s murder problem, or stop the upward trend in firearms-related homicides.