With the wall-to-wall coverage of every major shooting across the county, one might think that gun violence and mass shootings are currently at an all-time high.
But you would be wrong.
Gun violence in the United States is significantly lower than it was a quarter of a century ago. In 1993, the gun violence rate was 6.21 deaths per 100,000 people. In 2016, that same rate was reported at 3.4 deaths per 100,000 people.
Meanwhile, millions of Americans own guns, with the gun ownership rate estimated between 30 and 40 percent.
But what about mass shootings?
Mass shootings, while always tragic, make up less than 2 percent of all firearms-related deaths in the United States. Nearly 60 percent of all gun deaths are a result of suicide. Even Politico reports mass shootings are not becoming more frequent despite the media coverage each one generates:
But this perception isn’t because of some unprecedented rise in the rate of mass public shootings—far from it. They’re roughly as common now as they were in the 1980s and ’90s.
However, there is some data to suggests that mass shootings, while they aren’t more frequent, could be becoming deadlier:
What has increased over time is the number of people shot in these incidents. Looking at annual trends in the total number of victims shot in mass public shootings (on a per capita basis), you can see that the severity has recently increased, reaching a 40-year high. Because the trends in the rates at which victims have been killed and wounded have been similar, I focus on the total number of victims shot (either killed or wounded). Before 2012, the five-year moving average never exceeded 20 victims shot (per 100 million Americans). Since then, the five-year moving average rate has been above 20 every year but one (2014).
Another hotly debated topic is whether so-called “assault rifles,” which are really just semi-automatic rifles, are to blame.
Let’s look at the FBI crime data.
In 2016, 374 people were killed by “rifles” in 2016. That is total deaths. In comparison, 1,604 people were killed by “knives and cutting instruments” the same year. Yes, knives kill far more people than rifles do. Other things that kill more people than rifles include blunt objects, hands and feet, and handguns.
All of this data is easily accessible, yet many Americans still believe that gun violence has reached all-time highs. In 2013, for example, a stunning poll revealed only 12 percent of Americans believed the gun crime rate was lower in 2013 than it was in 1993 — 56 percent of people thought it was higher.
Just some food for thought.