The Trace Admits Murder Rates are Falling

The gun control movement rests on one fundamental premise: more guns equals more crime. That theory is easy to disprove just by looking at crime trends over the past 100 years, but it’s continued to be a bedrock belief of the anti-gunners for more than half a century.

In the first few decades of the 20th century homicide rates increased from about 1.5 per 100,000 people to almost 10 per 100K before dropping dramatically between the mid-1930s to the mid-1960s. From the 1960s to the early 1990s homicide rates spike once again, reaching an all-time high of 10.2 per 100K in 1980. Starting around 1991, however, crime rates began falling once again, and the decline continued almost unabated until 2020.

It’s harder to track gun ownership rates during that same time period since we (thankfully) don’t have any national registration or licensing requirements, but the number of firearms in the hands of citizens has only grown larger, with more than 400-million privately-owned firearms estimated in the United States. According to the “more guns equals more crime” theory, that graph above should show a steady increase in violent crime year after year instead of the rising and falling waves, and we certainly shouldn’t be witnessing what the anti-gun website The Trace admits could be the one of the largest one-year declines in homicides in U.S. history.

Not that The Trace spent a lot of time digging into the data. Instead, the report by crime analyst Jeff Asher received just a brief mention in the website’s daily newsletter on Thursday, and The Trace provided no analysis or explanation whatsoever about why homicide rates are refuting their inherent belief that more guns equates to a more dangerous society. I guess that shouldn’t come as a surprise given that Asher’s found significant declines in places with both very restrictive and very relaxed gun laws.

Murder fell in the first half of 2023 though how much it will fall at the end of the year remains to be seen. Murder is down around 11 percent in 100 cities with available data for 2023 per our dashboard. That’s up a bit from where things stood at the end of May but still well down from where things were a few years ago.
The decline in big cities would portend to a 7-10 percent decline nationally in 2023 if that figure holds up given how big cities tend to overstate the national trend. It would also be among the largest declines in murder ever formally recorded.
Murder is falling in a number of big cities — New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia — but it’s also falling in smaller cities with big murder problems. New Orleans likely had the nation’s highest murder rate for any city over 250,000 in 2022 while Jackson, MS likely had the nation’s highest murder rate for any city over 100,000. Murder is still high in both places, but it fell over the first half of the year. The same is true for St Louis and Baltimore, two cities that have had the nation’s highest murder rate at various points over the last decade.

Asher does acknowledge that there are no standardized reporting processes for every jurisdiction in the country, so extrapolating national numbers based on reporting from the 100 biggest cities in the country still leads to some guesswork, but it still appears evident that at the current pace we’re likely to see a drop of 10% or more by the end of the year, and some cities will likely see much larger reductions in the number of homicides.

According to the gun control lobby that should be an outright impossibility, but here we are. What Asher’s data shows is that violent crime rates can vary wildly even with a given state. Dallas, for instance, has seen a 5.5% increase in homicides this year, while Houston has witnessed a 23.6% decline. Homicides are up 26% in Charlotte, North Carolina but down by almost 60% in Greensboro.

That suggests that local policing and community outreach are going to have a much bigger impact on violent crime than state or federal gun control laws, which again flies in the face of the bedrock beliefs of anti-gunners from Joe Biden on down. More guns doesn’t equal more crime, more gun control doesn’t equate to more safety, and depriving tens of millions of Americans of their fundamental civil right to keep and bear arms in self-defense is still a terrible way to deal with violent offenders.

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