Twenty-Year Low in Gun Violence Illustrates Gap Between Reality and Public Perception

Two reports confirm one set of facts: Gun violence has dropped dramatically nationwide over the past two decades, but the impression people get from the mainstream media and anti-gun lobbyists is "gun crime" is out of control.

The Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics on May 7 released a report documenting a 39 percent decline in firearms-related homicides between 1993 and 2011, as well as a 69 percent drop-off in non-fatal crimes with firearms.

Another interesting stat from the Justice Department study: Less than 1 percent of state prison inmates who possessed a gun when they committed their offense obtained the firearm at a gun show.

Also on May 7, the private Pew Research Center issued a report that found a similar decline in the rate of gun homicides, gauging the number of killings against population growth. The PRC found that the number of gun homicides per 100,000 people fell from 7 in 1993 to 3.6 in 2010, a drop of 49 percent.

The Pew report also compared statistical reality with public perception in a March poll that showed that 56 percent of people believe the number of gun crimes is higher than it was two decades ago. Only 12 percent, the PRC's poll indicated, think the number of gun crimes is lower, while the rest said they think it remained the same or didn't know.

How the information will be interpreted could influence the gun control debate currently stalled in the Senate, notes Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post in a May 7 column.

"This is wonderful news for the country, and rotten data for anti-gun advocates trying to revive the Newtown, Conn., anti-gun legislative package," Rubin writes. "If they needed more facts as to why the anti-gun crusade is misplaced, Second Amendment defenders got a whole batch -- from the Obama Justice Department."
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-- DOJ: Gun violence down, semi-automatics a minor issue