Gun Crimes In the United States - Just the Facts

 James M. Woodward - Dec. 2012

In 2011, Homicide was only 16th in leading causes of death in the US, Suicide is the 10th in the nation (http://goo.gl/vQqEj). You are far more likely to lose someone if they pick up a cigarette (438/day, http://goo.gl/iJQRU or (135/day, http://goo.gl/po24U) for those who inhale secondhand smoke, or even if they step into a car (95/day, http://goo.gl/8RgVI).

It’s times like these that I feel it’s important to remind people of the facts about gun related crimes. The media likes to take an aggressive stance against certain types of weapons because it’s a sensationalist topic that will sell. However, there is much that is not presented which leaves their representation of statistics with a great bias.

2009:

Number of firearm homicides: 11,493 (3.7 incidents per 100,000 - http://goo.gl/vQqEj) - CDC/DoVS

Number of firearm murders: 9,146 (2.98 incidents per 100,000 - http://goo.gl/AE0dq) - FBI

Number of suicide firearm deaths: 18,735 (6.1 incidents per 100,000 - http://goo.gl/vQqEj - 2.04x times the number of murders)

2010:

Number of firearm homicides: 11,015 (3.6 incidents per 100,000 - http://goo.gl/bu0bt) - CDC/DoVS

Number of firearm murders: 8,775 (2.84 incidents per 100,000 - http://goo.gl/AE0dq) - FBI

Number of suicide firearm deaths: 19,308 (6.3 incidents per 100,000 - http://goo.gl/bu0bt - 2.20x times the number of murders)

2011:

Number of firearm homicides: 11,101 (3.6 / 100,000 - http://goo.gl/8RgVI) - CDC/DoVS

Number of firearm murders: 8,583 (2.75 / 100,000 - http://goo.gl/AE0dq) - FBI

Number of suicide firearm deaths: 19,766 (6.3/100,000 - http://goo.gl/8RgVI - 2.30x times the number of murders)

The difference between the homicides and murders implies a higher accidental death rate. Murders still declined.

Homicides and suicide firearm deaths are two statistics that are often reported together to increase the shock value of the firearm death rate. Firearm murders are on a decline (as reported by the FBI, Bureau of Justice, etc.) yet suicides are on the rise. It’s a distinction that should be made as they just don’t qualify as the same coverage (http://goo.gl/zqJuA) and reporting them as such is a misrepresentation of the overall statistics.

The statistics (in brief demonstrated here) shows there is a larger problem with suicide rate in the country. However, I feel the confines of this paper are not suitable for the mental health discussion as it could be had by itself. Lastly, If someone needs help (1-800-273-8255) they should have a way to get it, but that doesn’t mean that everyone will seek assistance.

Contrary to popular belief, the most common weapon used is not an assault rifle. In fact, the 2011 FBI murder report (http://goo.gl/LcT8v) details 12,664 murders, 6,220 (49%) of them were committed with handguns, knives totalled up to 1,694 (13.3%) and fists accounted for yet another 3.9%. Rifles came in in absolute last with 323 murders (2.5%), excluding unknown weapons. This is further backed up by California's 2009 report which explicitly lists the bullets used by frequency (http://goo.gl/RYG0e). The most common were the 9mm handgun round at more than double the use of the 2nd place round, the .22 rifle (or occasionally handgun) round. Traditional assault rifle rounds (7.62mm & .223”) were in last place for usage. On the same Justice Bureau website (http://goo.gl/qccOz) we read; “During the offense that brought them to prison, 15% of State inmates and 13% of Federal inmates carried a handgun, and about 2%, a military-style semiautomatic gun." These statistics align with the FBI's 2.5% rifle usage rate in it’s 2011 "About Gun Crime in the U.S" report, mentioned above (http://goo.gl/XpFiF).

Quoting the Justice Bureau's webpage once again, (http://goo.gl/qccOz); "Firearm-related crime has plummeted since 1993" and a 1997 prison survey highlights the fact that illegal firearm sources most often come from “family, friends, a street buy, or an illegal source” 80% of the time, contrary to common media misrepresentation that Gun Shows contribute many firearms, which were only listed as 2% of the response.

Another statistic rarely mentioned is the ratio at which gun crime occurs to gun ownership. In the United States, there are estimated to be 270 Million firearms, both licit and illicit, in the hands of private citizens (http://goo.gl/i2ifW). Compared to the number of weapons used in a murder (See: FBI Report 2011) that occurred last year is 0.003178%. That’s 3.17 per 100,000. Previous years (citing the same page), show that this is a continued decrease from each prior year:

2006:5.70,   2007:5.61,   2008:5.35,   2009:4.96,   2010:4.6

Verifying this information, the FBI Murder statistics show a steady decline every year starting at 10,150 in 2005 (beginning of the report) and ending at 8,583 reports in 2011: http://goo.gl/P5D5q 

All these statistics demonstrate that attention grabbing issues are nothing more than distractions from the real problem; Handgun and gang violence that the press has long since moved past. In this FBI spreadsheet on gang activity it is apparent that handgun usage is on the rise, and hasn’t seen a drop in gang related homicide activity, (raw numbers: http://goo.gl/OxvrZ, chart: http://goo.gl/ZR5ih).  We mostly see high publicity events that grab media attention, while the majority of gun violence is statistically carried out with illegally obtained handguns not assault weapons, (and not in schools) however those more common issues don't garner press attention. A fine example, is that the death toll from all mass shootings (30 over 13 years) since Columbine (273, http://goo.gl/J2oMJ) are surpassed by drive-by shooting deaths in Los Angeles, in a single year (275, http://goo.gl/qYSQJ).

I do not seek to trivialize the horrific nature of the mass shootings that have occurred in our society but to suggest alternate means of handling their occurrence. As a society, we (and particularly the press) often have knee jerk reactions to extremist situations when there are much, much larger problems occurring, (daily even) that aren't pushed at us with such tenacity. As such I'll side with Roger Ebert and his recent article. If we stop placing the killers in the limelight, perhaps they won't be frequent. We shouldn't remember and glorify the names of those that stormed Columbine yet forget the victims; http://goo.gl/6UmOg

Post Release Edits/Corrections:

- Clarified percentages on “suicide firearm deaths.” (Thanks: downtown_vancouver/Reddit)

- Corrected vehicular death rate percentage for US using CDC Records. (Thanks: whitman00/Reddit)