Gun control is one of the most prominent political debates of the modern era. The dialogue was heightened in the wake of tragedies such as the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut, and nationally-publicized events such as George Zimmerman’s trial for the murder of Trayvon Martin raised further questions about the nature of gun use in the United States.
Despite the issue of Second Amendment rights being increasingly talked about in the media as well as in political forums, national rates of violent gun crimes have actually drastically decreased since a peak in the mid-1990s.
According to a new report from Pew Research, the firearm homicide rate was 49% lower in 2010 compared to 1993, the highest recorded year of gun-related deaths in the U.S. For non-homicidal, gun-related crimes, the rate was 75% lower in 2011 compared to 1993. There are, of course, variations in the data in a year-by-year basis, but, overall, the long-term trend is that the rate of violent gun crimes has decreased throughout the past 20 years.
The Pew report also shows that the majority of Americans are unaware that gun crime today is lower than it was in the mid-1990s. According to the survey’s results, 56% of Americans believe gun crime is higher than it was in 1994, while only 12% believe it is lower.
Compared with the rest of the world, however, the United States still has a high rate of gun-related crime. According to the Guardian, the U.S. has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world, with an average of 88 guns per 100 people. The country is also ranked 28th in the list of countries with the highest firearm murder rate, with 2.97 gun-related deaths occurring per 100,000 people.
The public perception of gun laws in the United States likely differs from the facts because the notion of gun ownership itself has become such a hotly debated topic in politics. The decreasing rate of gun-related crime is an important statistic, but the question of how guns should be treated in modern society is equally as important to consider and discuss.