According to research from the Pew Research Center, the FBI, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gun violence in America is actually on the decline compared to the past 30 years, thanks in part to the increased number and effectiveness of police officers.
These statistics show significant decreases since the 1980s in overall homicides, which includes suicides, murders, police shootings and accidental deaths — and gun use as the cause of those homicides.
According to a Pew analysis of gun deaths based on CDC statistics, there were seven homicides by firearm per 100,000 Americans in 1993 and only 3.6 by 2013, a decrease by almost half. The nation’s overall gun death rate has declined by 30 percent since 1993.
The number of shootings resulting in an outcome other than death decreased at an even greater rate, from 725 in 1993 to 175 in 2013.
According to FBI statistics on violent crime rates, America is becoming the safest it has been since 1960, when the FBI began recording data. Although the most recent data is in 2014, the overall violent crime and murder/non-negligent manslaughter rates are dropping steadily, suggesting America is only getting safer.
In 2014, the violent crime rate was 365.5, making America the safest it has been since 1970, and the murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate was 4.5 out of 100,000, making 2014 the safest year in terms of murders since 1960.
America’s least safe historical year is 1980, when the murder rate reached an all-time high of 10.2. Since then, the murder rate has dropped steadily — with a slight relapse in 1991 — but an otherwise stable trend.
FBI data from 2014 shows overall homicides and usage of guns for homicide has decreased steadily over the past four years, with 8,124 homicides committed by guns in 2014 and 9,199 in 2009, again suggesting not only are homicides decreasing, but the use of guns to commit them is decreasing as well.
Writing for The Washington Post, WonkBlog, Max Ehrenfreund reported five explanations for the decrease, including an increase of federal funding to police officers, who are then able to more effectively stop violent crimes. In 1994, President Bill Clinton’s major crime bill granted federal funding to police stations across the country that allowed them to hire 100,000 officers.
Economist Steven Levitt estimated larger police forces caused crime decreases of anywhere from 5 to 6 percent, especially in New York City, in which crime dropped 93 percent between 1990 and 2011. This precipitous drop is due in part to ramped-up policing measures by city leadership.
Ehrenfreund adds police using computers and a better economy, among others, to his list, arguing they account for, respectively, 11 percent and 10 to 11 percent of the drop.