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Murder Rate Falling
When anti-gun publications have to admit the truth.
The Atlantic is a national-level publication that is notably not pro-gun. As they published a string of anti-gun screeds on the AR-15, I pitched a number of articles on the subject. Seeking to provide a more balanced view as Professor David Yamane valiantly tries to do, my goal was to provide light over heat; no politics, just facts. One example: https://americangunsmith.info/the-atlantic-ar-15-history.
Most of you will likely be unsurprised to learn that all of these were rejected without response. I guess offering a neutral, facts-only position and failing to address the subject with the “correct” slant made it unworthy. I mean, why would a national-level publication want an article about AR-15 rifles written by someone who competed with and won competitions with them for over a quarter century and has edited gunsmith articles professionally for over a decade when they can instead only entertain opinions by academics with zero hands-on experience?
Regardless of my failure to slant in their preferred direction, even they managed to admit to the undeniable truth.
TL;DR: Despite having a “gun epidemic” (according to the CDC) the homicide rate has dropped since the early 1990s to near historic lows in the mid-2010s, a decade after the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban sunset in 2004. Both CDC and FBI data verify this. There was an uptick in violence from these historic lows during the pandemic, which has largely subsided since as the article below indicates. What the article doesn’t mention is that all of this occurred as gun ownership and the number of firearms in circulation has increased.
The first five months of 2023 have produced an encouraging overall trend for the first time in years.
by Jeff Asher, The Atlantic (June 2023)
Jeff Asher is a crime analyst based in New Orleans and co-founder of AH Datalytics.
Official crime statistics are only released after a substantial delay, so for nearly a decade I’ve collected and compiled big-city crime data as a way to assemble a more real-time picture of national murder trends. And this spring, I’ve found something that I’ve never seen before and that probably has not happened in decades: strong evidence of a sharp and broad decline in the nation’s murder rate.
The United States may be experiencing one of the largest annual percent changes in murder ever recorded, according to my preliminary data. It is still early in the year and the trend could change over the second half of the year, but data from a sufficiently large sample of big cities have typically been a good predictor of the year-end national change in murder, even after only five months.
Murder is down about 12 percent year-to-date in more than 90 cities that have released data for 2023, compared with data as of the same date in 2022. Big cities tend to slightly amplify the national trend—a 5 percent decline in murder rates in big cities would likely translate to a smaller decline nationally. But even so, the drop shown in the preliminary data is astonishing.
Murder is down 13 percent in New York City, and shootings are down 25 percent, relative to last year as of late May. Murder is down more than 20 percent in Los Angeles, Houston, and Philadelphia. And, most significantly, murder is down 30 percent—30 percent!—or more in Jackson, Mississippi; Atlanta, Georgia; Little Rock, Arkansas; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and others.
Explaining the trend is much more difficult than describing it. The cause of the Great Crime Decline of the 1990s, when murder fell 37 percent over six years, is still not fully understood, so any explanations of the current trend must remain in the hypothesis phase for now. The national nature of both the surge in murder in 2020 and the apparent decrease this year suggests that national explanations will be more convincing than local anecdotes. Moreover, the factors that caused murder to begin to spike in the summer of 2020 may not be the same factors (now, theoretically, in reverse) that are contributing to its decline in 2023.
“It is possible that police departments have returned to some of the proactive work that they curtailed during the COVID pandemic and after George Floyd, activities that may be inhibiting some gun violence,” Jerry Ratcliffe, a criminal-justice professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, told me. In Baltimore, for example, a new effort to focus policing resources on the small subset of the population that is believed to be responsible for a disproportionate share of violence has produced promising initial results.
Many cities have used federal COVID-relief money to hire more police officers, and there is some evidence—albeit preliminary—that adding police officers helps to reduce homicide, while also leading to more arrests for low-level offenses.
The end of the emergency phase of the coronavirus pandemic may also be contributing to the decline in murder. “With COVID restrictions being lifted and a return to some degree of normalcy, the traditional constraints that occurred within society affecting the routine activities of people have returned,” Ratcliffe said.
Anthony Smith, the executive director of Cities United, an organization working to address community violence, agrees that the end of the pandemic is playing a role in falling violence. “Structures and systems that folks relied on are back open and driving. A lot of this took place during COVID time when a lot of stuff was shut down and folks didn’t have access. There was a lot of bleakness, there was just nothing,” Smith told me. “The world opened back up.” Smith believes that young people were particularly disconnected by the shutdown in services prompted by COVID, contributing to increasing violence among youth.
Smith also points to additional efforts to fund community interventions from the federal government and the efforts of philanthropic organizations to fund violence interventions. “There are more resources for the work, more investment in the work,” Smith told me. “A lot of cities have used [American Rescue Plan Act] dollars or general-fund dollars and decided to invest more in the intervention and prevention work around violence prevention.”
Smith highlighted the Department of Justice awarding $100 million to community groups addressing gun violence last year as an example of this investment. Cities have “increased their community-violence-intervention ecosystem and have focused in on identifying [those residents] most at risk and creating systems where they can identify, engage, and support them,” he told me.
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