What’s going on? After year-to-year declines in the violent crime rate going back twenty years, all of a sudden in 2015 things turned around and now violent crime rates are going back up. Now the good news is that the overall violent crime rate ― 372.6 per 100,000 ― is well below what it was five years ago when it stood at 404.5. It’s also about 20 percent lower than it was ten years ago and more than 70 percent lower than its alarming peak in 1994. So yes, we are a lot safer than we were twenty years ago. On the other hand, a two-decade drop in violent crime may have come to an end.
What’s more disturbing about the overall increase is that the biggest year-to-year increase occurred within the murder category which is, for most of us, the sine qua non of violent crime. Every violent crime category – murder, rape, aggravated assault, robbery – showed an increase from 2014 to 2015, but rape was up 5 percent, aggravated assault increased by 4 percent, robbery was just slightly higher, but the homicide rate jumped by 10 percent, and that’s a lot more dead bodies, 1,532 more dead bodies to be exact. And although the difference was not all that great, you might as well know that the percentage of murders committed with guns also slid up from 69 percent to 71 percent.
Now according to Gun-nut Nation, as the number of privately-owned guns goes up and, in particular, the number of gun-owners who are allowed to walk around carrying a gun goes up, violent crime is supposed to go down. The idea that more guns equals less crime is not only the title of a book written by one of Gun-nut Nation’s most cherished mouthpieces, it has been the watchword of the entire marketing scheme for guns since white suburbanites became afraid of crime and people stopped hunting, both of which became kind of obvious even to the gun industry back when Ronald Reagan was making room at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for the first George Bush.
Remember Willie Horton? Bush’s 1988 opponent, Mike Dukakis, had the bad luck of having supported the furlough program which let Horton out of slam for a weekend furlough whereupon Horton went down to Maryland, raped a young woman and then was arrested and thrown back into jail. Maybe the Horton ad swung the election for Bush and maybe it didn’t, but the one thing it certainly did was to focus attention on the issues of race and crime. And this was the same time that the NRA began ramping up the campaign to get states to issue concealed-carry licenses (CCW), with only a handful of states going along with the idea in 1987 but more than 30 states granting near-automatic CCW by 1995.
It was also in the mid-’90s that a serious increase in violent crime due primarily to the crack-cocaine epidemic began to abate with a ten-year cycle of increasing crime rates from the mid-1980s being replaced with annual declines of violent crime which continued for the next twenty years. And what accounted for this year-after-year decline in violent crime? The ‘fact’ that so many Americans owned guns and more and more Americans were carrying concealed weapons outside their home. The argument was first made by a Florida criminologist named Gary Kleck, then refurbished and expanded by another ersatz academic named John Lott, and just before the FBI released the 2015 numbers the gun industry’s official broadcaster, the National Shooting Sports Foundation blared on its website: “Gun Crimes Plummet As Gun Sales Rise.”
But how will the NSSF explain away the increase in violent crime while gun sales and CCW permits continue to soar? I’ve got it! Just blame it on the possibility that Hillary might defeat Trump and then immediately ban all guns. No matter which way you cut it, you’ll always find someone who believes the Martians have established a colony at Area 51.