HASSO HERING

A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

U.S. violence is down, far down

Written January 9th, 2013 by
A reflection of our history.

A reflection of our history.

Here’s something worth pointing out amid all the talk about violence and calls for more gun control: The United States keeps getting more peaceful even as gun ownership goes up.

Time magazine reports that there’s nearly one gun in the U.S. for every American. That would amount to nearly 300 million firearms, making us what Time calls “by far the most heavily armed nation in the world.” The implication of this phrasing is that this is something dangerous, something menacing. The facts, though, tell a different story. Even as more citizens make use of their right to keep arms, the murder rate in this country has been cut in half in the last 20 years. The rate was 9.3 murders per 100,000 people in 1992, and by 2011 it had fallen to 4.7 — a stunning reduction of nearly 50 percent.

In the Wall Street Journal last month, there was a story giving credit for the lower murder rate to better trauma centers in our hospitals. But again, the facts as reported in the annual FBI crime reports tell a different story. The rate of violent crime overall also fell sharply, from 758 per 100,000 in 1992 to 386 in 2011. That’s 49 percent, almost exactly matching the drop in the murder rate alone. And the skill of trauma surgeons did not cause that.

Compare us to the violent crime in, say, England, where private gun ownership is virtually banned. There, the Home Office reports “total violence against persons” in 2010-11 at a rate of 822 per ONE THOUSAND, which would make England more than 200 times more violent than the U.S. on average. That seems incredible, so the Brits evidently handle their statistics differently from the way the FBI does. But still, it suggests the U.S. is a more peaceful country as a whole, and getting more so all the time. Maybe we’re more civilized, or maybe it’s because we have more guns. (hh)


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