The next time you hear someone criticizing the United States forbeing a “crime-ridden” country, and especially if they saythat handguns are “responsible” for American violence, you cantell them that they are totally off target–on both counts. The facts of the matter are, purely and simply: Crime in the UnitedStates has hit a record low. In fact, the U.S. does not even rank inthe top 10 most violent countries in the world. And anyone who claimsthat handgun availability contributes to crime, or that gun control lawsreduce crime, is a boldfaced liar.
Late in 1984, the Federal Bureau of Investigation released itslatest Uniform Crime Reports, based on crime data collected by localpolice departments during 1983. According to the FBI data, seriouscrime in the United States has reached a record low, with crime droppingfor an unprecedented third straight year. The FBI’s “Crime in the United States, 1983” showedthat firearm involvement in U.S. homicide dropped to its lowest levelsince 1966–and that has been without any new national gun control law. Here are the facts, according to the FBI. Fact One: For the second consecutive year, handguns were involvedin less than 44 percent of U.S.
homicides, compared to approximately 50percent in 1981. Fact Two: Handgun involvement in homicide has been dropping forthree straight years. There were 8,193 reported handgun-relatedhomicides in 1983, compared to 8,474 in 1982, almost 9,200 in 1981 andmore than 10,000 in 1980. (Those figures, incidentally, includecriminals killed by criminals, some criminals killed by private citizensin self-defense, and persons murdered by others in the U.S.).
Fact Three: Firearm involvement in homicide, and this includes allguns–rifles, shotguns and handguns–fell 3 percent in 1983 over theprevious year. Fact Four: Firearm (again all types of guns) involvement in robberyfell to the lowest level ever measured by the FBI, which started keepingtrack of this category in 1974. Fact Five: Firearm involvement in aggravated assault has not beenlower in the U.
S. since 1967. Fact Six: There were 16 percent fewer gun-related robberies in 1983than in 1982, and 20 percent fewer than in 1981. We hear so much today in the news about “crime in the cities,crime in the streets.” Just where is that crime concentrated andwhy? According to the FBI reports, Detroit leads the nation among citieswith populations 500,000 or more as the country’s most violentmetropolis. It is followed by Boston, Baltimore, Washington, D.C.
, NewYork, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Orleans, Cleveland and Chicago. For skeptics, those are the “Top Ten” cities’ crimerates, taking into consideration their populations, so no one can saythey are the most violent merely because of their size. All the top 10 cities have some form of tough gun control laws,including: handgun bans or handgun “freezes”; waiting periodsand background checks on handgun buyers; strict permit-to-purchase orpermit-to-carry statutes; anti-gun police or administrations; or acombination of one or more of these anti-gun measures.
Among cities in the 250,000 to 500,000 population range, Newark,for the second year in a row, was the most violent U.S. city, followedby Miami, Atlanta and Oakland. All of them have at least one strictanti-gun law interfering with the right of law-abiding citizens to keepand bear arms. The FBI crime figures continue to show, as they have for manyyears, that areas with high per capita firearm ownership and few guncontrol restrictions have the lowest crime rates in America.
In fact,the safest state in the country in 1983-and for several years beforethat–was North Dakota, where there are lots of law-abiding gun ownersand very few gun control laws. How does the United States compare with other nations in terms ofviolence? According to figures released late in 1984 by Interpol, aworld-wide crime-fighting organization headquartered in Paris, the U.S.was not even in the top 10 in overall crime among nations. The U.S.
ranked 11th in the crime rate category. Lebanon, Guyana, St.Kitts-Nevis and Anguilla (tied), Finland, Sweden, New Zealand, Denmark,Fiji, Monaco, Trinidad and Tobago (tied) placed 1-10.
The U.S. also ranks 11th in murder and 22nd in the sex offensecategory, but placed 4th in three areas: drug-related offenses, grandtheft, and juvenile crime. Granted, there is no crime level in America that is”acceptable.” But realistically, we do not live in a country”overrun” with crime. America is safer today than it was 4, 5,or almost 20 years ago, and that has nothing to do with gun controllaws. According to leading criminal justice authorities, our crime dropis tied to tougher penalties at the state and federal level, increasedpublic involvement in neighborhood crime prevention programs and theadoption, in many states, of mandatory sentences for persons who usefirearms while committing a crime.
Additionally, the current U.S. prison population is at an all-timehigh, with more than 454,000 persons in American prisons. Thecountry’s historic problem with recidivist criminals–habitualfelons responsible for an estimated 80 percent of violent crime–seemsto be on the wane, as more and more prisoners are kept behind bars forlonger periods of time. So, the next time you hear someone calling for gun control as a”solution” to America’s crime, you might tell them thatthey would be serving the country better if they: One, supportedmandatory jail sentences, particularly for drug pushers; two, built morejails to house more criminals, especially juvenile offenders; and three,kept a close eye on their homes and the homes of their neighbors.
And one more thing: You might suggest that they buy a gun.