Myth No. 1
Donald Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 with a speech that described a country besieged by violence. He said that President Barack Obama “has made America a more dangerous environment than frankly I have ever seen.” Earlier this year, Trump declared the U.S. murder rate to be “the highest it’s been in, I guess, 45 to 47 years.” Half of Americans in a Pew Research Center poll said gun violence is “a very big problem” today, with 59 percent of non-gun-owners saying the same.
Indeed, data from the FBI indicates an alarming 32 percent increase in the number of homicides committed with firearms from 2014 to 2016. The number of robberies and aggravated assaults committed with firearms increased by 17 percent over that time. The number of people shot in mass shootings has also risen sharply in the past 12 years.
Yet the current rate of firearm violence is still far lower than in 1993, when the rate was 6.21 such deaths per 100,000 people, compared with 3.4 in 2016. The high rate in the early 1990s was linked to a variety of conditions, most notably the emergence of a large and violent market for crack cocaine. It’s too soon to determine the causes of recent increases in gun violence or whether the upward trend will continue.
Authors: Daniel Webster is the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. Jon Vernick is the center’s deputy, and Cassandra Crifasi and Beth McGinty are faculty members at the center.