The aforementioned quote can be attributed to my favorite conservative commentator, Ben Shapiro; and while the meaning behind it should be obvious, I want to mention that it's not meant to be abrasive. It's simply serving as an intro for the content that I will cover in the first two installments of my article series called, Let's Talk Gun Control.
Gun control is a very complex issue. One that needs quite a bit of time to understand and unpack. So, I want to dedicate these first two parts to the actual facts regarding the role that guns play in violent crime in the United States, spanning from 1960 (the decade that introduced the highly-publicized AR-15 into civilian life) all the way up to the most recent data that we have.
First things first, let's get an idea of two important statistics: violent crime in the United States and gun ownership in the United States.
This table, provided by the Brennan Center, maps out the rate of violent crime in the United States, by year, spanning from 1960 to 2013:
As you can see, violent crime has skyrocketed since 1960, to its peak in 1991, but has been on a steady decline since 1991. As of 2013, violent crime was at its lowest point in nearly 40 years, since the early '70s
Some might argue that the amount of Americans who own firearms may have something to do with the numbers skyrocketing and that they are decreasing because less and less people own guns; however, this table, reported by Statista using data collected by Gallup, shows that the amount of households in the United States owning one or more firearms has remained relatively constant for the last 45 years:
Now, what's even more interesting is that, as I mentioned previously, the rate of violent crime in the United States has decreased to its lowest point in virtually 40 years. After observing the table above regarding the percentage of households in the United States owning one or more firearms, we can paint a very interesting picture when we take into account the size of the population.
In short, the United States has maintained a comparatively stable percentage of citizens that own guns. But given that the U.S. population increases by roughly 25 million people every decade, that means that the number of citizens who own firearms has increased as well.
In long, well, let's take a look at this data from the U.S. Census Bureau:
In 1970 there were 203.2 million people and in 2010 there were 308.7 million. Remember, and I'm going to keep beating this phrase into the ground, as of the early 2010s, the rate of violent crime in the U.S. is at the lowest it has been since the early '70s.
So, to help illustrate my point, let's pay close attention to 1972 and 2012. Both years are exactly 40 years apart from one another and both years report a 43% gun ownership rate in the U.S. Using the numbers from the Census Bureau, that means there were approximately 87 million gun owners in 1972 and 133 million gun owners in 2012.
That means that although there were 46 million more gun owners in 2012 than in 1972, which translates to a 53% increase in the amount of guns (at the very least, since the data on gun ownership is regarding "one or more" guns per household), the rate of violent crime committed in the United States was just as low as it was 40 years earlier and half of what it was just 20 years earlier.
Correlation does not indicate causation, but we cannot simply ignore that the data shows that although gun ownership in America is increasing every year, as the population grows, the rate of violent crime committed in America has been rapidly decreasing and continues to do so.
Which is something that is absolutely vital to take into account moving forward with our discussion on gun control.