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Gun Control, by the Numbers

Many people in the US hold serious misconceptions regarding gun violence, and at the risk of further muddying the waters I want to point out some facts.

According to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey, 56% of Americans believe gun crime is higher now (well, 2013) than it was two decades prior. In reality it is much lower, with homicides by firearm declining from 7.0/100,000 people in 1993 to 3.4/100,000 people in 2014. Over the same time period the rate of non-fatal firearm victimizations declined dramatically from 725.3/100,000 to 174.8/100,000.

It is important to note that within that time frame Americans purchased between 4 and 10 million new guns per year. To belabor the point, the number of guns in the hands of private citizens has steadily increased while gun related homicide and violence has decreased. According to the survey mentioned above only 12% of Americans are aware of this fact.

Another statistic that seems widely misunderstood is firearm deaths. I found the following numbers on the CDC website. In 2014 there were 33,594 deaths related to firearms in the US. I have seen this figure quoted by the gun control lobby to support their positions. Of that number, however, only 11,008 were homicides and 21,386 were suicides*. It can be reasonably assumed that those individuals would have tragically ended their lives by other means if firearms were unavailable. To make the point again, the number of firearm homicides in 1993 was 18,253. In 2014 it was down to 11,008. In that time Americans purchased well over 100 million new firearms. These numbers indicate even though there are more guns available the average person is less likely to be killed with a firearm now than 20 years ago. Ignorance of this fact coupled with the understandably large amount of media attention that mass shootings generate no doubt helps form the perception that more gun control is needed. But we seem to be moving in the right direction under the laws we currently have. Further improvement could be made simply by properly enforcing the existing laws.


*The CDC’s figures appear to be off by 2200. Maybe these are accidental deaths?

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