Numbers Don’t Lie: A Fair and Balanced Look at Gun Ownership and Violent Crime in the U.S.
With the recent tragedies in Aurora, Colorado, and Newtown, Connecticut, still in the collective consciousness of the nation, gun control has frenetically risen to the forefront of political discourse. The airwaves have and continue to be saturated with compelling arguments from both gun control advocates and gun rights advocates. But oftentimes the simple facts become lost on the American public. This article intends to present just that – the facts – on gun ownership and its relationship with violent crime in the U.S.
A quick glance at gun ownership in America
- According to the latest U.S. data (March 1, 2013), the nation has a total population is roughly 315 million. The household population is roughly 307 million.
- According to the Small Arms Survey, an independent research project based in Geneva, only the U.S. and Yemen consider civilian gun ownership a right. A total of 28 countries were surveyed.
- The Small Arms Survey also reports the estimated total of guns held by the U.S. civilians is 270 million – or 88.9 firearms per 100 people. India, the country with the second-most guns, has an estimated 46 million guns in private hands – about four firearms per 100 people.
- About 40 to 45 percent of American households (47-53 million) own a gun.
The economic impact of the U.S. gun industry
- The firearms industry had a 31 billion dollar impact on the U.S. economy in 2011, according to the 2012 Ammunition Industry Economic Impact Report by the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
- According to Forbes.com, gun ownership is at close to a 20-year high, generating $4 billion in commercial gun and ammunition sales.
- Since 2007, Winchester ammo sales have increased about 33 percent.
- According to Armslist.com, the average cost of a .223-caliber semi-automatic rifle – the same weapon used in the Sandy Hook massacre, averages around $700-$2000.
Do more guns mean more violent crime?
When you get down to brass tacks, there is one simple question at the heart of the gun control debate: Does more guns mean more gun crime? Here’s what the statistics say:
While there is no national database monitoring gun ownership in the United States, statistics from the FBI’s Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) show that the number of background checks for legal guns is at a 14-year high. The NICS has been tracking the number of background checks on legal guns since late 1998.
So, what exactly does this mean?
While there’s not necessarily a 1:1 correlation between a gun background check and gun sale, a strong relationship exists between a gun background check and a gun sale, FBI spokesman Steven Fischer told Reuters.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives keeps track of data for guns under the National Firearms Act – which regulates and taxes many of the deadliest weapons. That data shows a record-high 1.1 million regulated firearms were processed in 2012.
Moreover, a 2011 Gallup survey shows that gun ownership in America is increasing. According to the results, 47 percent of Americans report that they have a gun in their home or elsewhere on their property.” This marks the highest percentage of gun ownership recorded by Gallup since 1993.
In 1992, the homicide rate was 9.3 per 100,000 people. By 2000, the murder rate had declined to 5.6 per 100,000 people, and, by 2011, shrunken to 4.7 per 100,000 people.
Suicide – however – does not reflect this downward trend in violent crime. In fact, most American firearm deaths are suicides. In 2010 – the most recent year in which complete statistics are available – 3 of 5 gun deaths were self-inflicted.
Additionally, 15 of the 25 deadliest mass shooting in the last half century have taken place in the United States.
Summary of the facts: What does it all mean?
Now that all the facts are in front of you, the next step is making sense of them. Here is what they can tell us:
America has the highest number of guns per capita than anywhere in the world – a number which appears to be increasing. The murder rate has decreased as more guns have gone into circulation, supporting the argument for gun rights advocacy.
However, there is a missing link here – suicide. While the murder rate has declined, the suicide rate remains the leading cause of gun-related deaths in America.
The reality is that, guns, on their own, are inert machines incapable of causing harm on their own. Many upstanding Americans use firearms legally for target shooting, hunting and other harmless purposes. But overwhelmingly, most gun-holding citizens cite home protection and defense against criminals as the main motivation for owning a firearm.
In fact, most gun owners with a home security system installed will never have to fire their weapon at all. According to a survey by the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association, 9 out of 10 convicted burglars said they would avoid homes with an alarm system installed. So, if you own a gun for protection purposes, consider supplementing your firearm with a quality alarm system. Companies such as securitychoice, Protection 1 and Vivint offer affordable home protection packages for homeowners.
At the end of the day, there is no indication that reducing the amount of guns in circulation would reduce violent crime. Obviously, more research – and collaboration between both sides of the gun control issue – is needed to discover what actions are necessary to reduce violent crime in America.