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Homicides in the US Fall for Second Year as Murder Rate Drops in 38 States – Article by Ryan McMaken

Homicides in the US Fall for Second Year as Murder Rate Drops in 38 States – Article by Ryan McMaken


Ryan McMaken
December 28, 2019
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As 2018 came to an end, politicians and media pundits insisted that ” gun violence ” was growing and hitting crisis levels .

While a homicide rate of anything greater than zero is an measure of very-real human misery, it nonetheless turns out that fewer people were murdered in 2018 than in the year before. Moreover, 2018 was the second year in a row during which the homicide rate declined.

According to new homicide statistics released by the FBI last month, the homicide rate in the United States was 5 per 100,000 people. That was down from 5.3 per 100,000 in 2017 and down from 5.4 in 2016. In 2014, the homicide rate in the US hit a 57-year low, dropping to 4.4 per 100,000, making it the lowest homicide rate recorded since 1957.

 At 5 per 100,000, 2018’s homicide rate has been cut nearly in half since the 1970s and the early 1990s when the national homicide rate frequently exceeded nine percent.

The regions with the largest declines were New England and the Mountain west where homicide rates decreased 18 percent and 12 percent, respectively. The only region reporting an increase was the Mid Atlantic region, with an increase of one percent. This was driven largely by an increase in homicides in Pennsylvania.

 At the state level, the homicide rate went down in 38 states, and increased in 12.

The states with the lowest homicide rates were South Dakota, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. The states with the lowest rates were nearly all found in New England and in the West. For additional context, I have graphed US states with Canadian provinces (in red):

Indeed, when we map the states by homicide rate, we can see some clear regional differences:

In American political discourse, it is fashionable to insist that those places with the most strict gun control laws have the least amount of violence.

This position, of course, routinely ignores the fact that large regions of the US have very laissez faire gun laws with far lower levels of violent crime than those areas with more gun regulations. Moreover, if we were to break down the homicide rates into even more localized areas, we’d find that high homicide rates are largely confined to a relatively small number of neighborhoods within cities. Americans who live outside these areas — that is to say, the majority of Americans — are unlikely to ever experience homicide either first-hand or within their neighborhoods.

We can see the lack of correlations between gun control and homicide, for instance, if we compare state-level homicide rates to rankings of state-level gun laws published by pro-gun-control organizations.

For example, using the Giffords Center’s rankings of state gun policy, many of the states with the lowest homicide rates (South Dakota, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Utah) are states with the most laissez faire gun policies. The Giffords Center naturally ranks these states the lowest for gun policy, giving Maine and Utah grades of “F” and “D-“, respectively, although both states are two of the least violent places in all of North America.

Homicide vs. “Gun Violence”

As is so often the case when dealing with gun statistics put out by pro-gun-control groups, the Giffords Center attempts to fudge the numbers by measuring “gun deaths” rather than homicides. By design, this number includes suicides — which then makes violence rates look higher — while excluding all forms of homicide not involving guns.

Thus, a state with higher homicide rates overall — but with fewer gun homicides — will look less violent than it really is.

Meanwhile, a state with little violent crime, but with relatively high homicide rates, will be counted as a state with many “gun deaths.” These nuances are rarely explained in the public debate however, and the term “gun deaths” is just thrown around with the intent of making places with looser gun laws look like they have more crime.

Moreover, the attempt to use suicide to “prove” more guns lead to more suicides is easily shown to be baseless at the international level: the US has totally unremarkable suicide rate even though it is far easier to acquire a gun in the US than many countries with far higher suicide rates.

Mass Shootings

As the total number of homicides in the US has gone down in recent decades, many commentators have taken to fixating on mass shooting events as evidence that the United States is in the midst of an epidemic of shootings.

Mass shootings, however, occur in such small numbers as to have virtually no effect on nationwide homicide numbers.

According to the Mother Jones mass shootings listing, for examples, there were 80 deaths resulting from mass shootings in 2018, or 0.5 percent of all homicides. That was down from the 117 mass-shooting total in 2017, which was 0.7 percent of all homicides. And how will 2019 look? This year, there have been 66 mass-shooting deaths. On a per-month basis, mass shootings have so far been deadlier in 2019 than in 2018. But we could also note that although there have been 66 mass shooting victims this year, the total number of homicides in Maryland alone fell by 68 from 2017 to 2018.

And then, of course, there is the issue of crime prevention through private gun ownership. Since averted crimes are not counted in any government database, we only know how many crimes actually occur. We don’t know how many are averted due to the potential victim being armed. Nor does the homicide data differentiate between criminal homicides, and homicides committed in self defense. Thus, sloppy researchers will simply report all homicides as criminal killings. But this is not the case.

As one might expect, pro-gun-control advocates insist that the number of crimes averted due to defensive weapons is very low. But, again, there is no empirical evidence showing this. Some gun control activists will point to studies that conclude more homicides occur in areas with more guns. These studies may be getting the causality backwards, however, since we’d expect more gun ownership to result in areas that are perceived to be more crime-ridden.

Ryan McMaken (@ryanmcmaken) is a senior editor at the Mises Institute. He has degrees in economics and political science from the University of Colorado, and was the economist for the Colorado Division of Housing from 2009 to 2014. He is the author of Commie Cowboys: The Bourgeoisie and the Nation-State in the Western Genre.

Want to Stop Gun Violence? End The War On Drugs – Article by Jay Stooksberry

Want to Stop Gun Violence? End The War On Drugs – Article by Jay Stooksberry

The New Renaissance HatJay Stooksberry
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Every December 5th, American beer, wine, and spirit enthusiasts celebrate Repeal Day. It was on this day in 1933 that the United States officially passed the 21st Amendment, effectively ending the failed “noble experiment” known as Prohibition. This was not only a good day for liberty and libations; it also marked the end of a violent era in American history.

The transport and sale of illicit booze became a prolific criminal enterprise backed by well-armed, violent gangs. The result: a homicide rate in the United States that steadily climbed between 1920 and 1933. In addition, the rise of “victimless crimes”—namely, consumption or possession of alcohol—added to the already overburdened judicial system. Furthermore, alcohol consumption—what Prohibition laws sought to minimize—actually increased nearly 70 percent.

To call Prohibition a failure would be an understatement.

This time we call it the “War on Drugs,” and its impact is even more deadly.

Repealing Prohibition destroyed the monopoly on alcohol maintained by organized crime. Disempowering the black market produced a noticeable decline in the homicide rate. In fact, homicides continued to diminish each year for eleven years straight.

Prohibition All Over Again

Fast forward 82 years, and we are in the midst of Prohibition 2.0. This time we call it the “War on Drugs,” and its impact is even more deadly.

If concerned citizens want to get serious about reducing gun violence, then they should be encouraged to focus less on policies that are ineffective—“assault weapons” bansgun buyback programs, and outright confiscation—and focus more on ending our failed, four-decade long, overly-militarized, trillion-dollar battle against narcotics.

Let’s put gun violence into perspective. There is no doubt that gun violence is a problem. Guns are used in nearly three-fourths of all American homicides.

What typically brings gun control to the forefront of our political dialogue is the recurring tragedy of a mass shooting. However, mass shootings receive a disproportionate amount of media attention considering how much they actually contribute to our national homicide rate.

According to Mass Shooting Tracker, in 2014, mass shooting incidents resulted in the deaths of 383 people—about 3% of total gun homicides for the year. In comparison, the violence caused by the Drug War overshadows the bloodshed of mass shootings. Though difficult to quantify due to inconsistent reporting, estimates of drug-related homicides reach as high as 50 percent of the total homicides in the United States.

Without legal mechanisms in place, the only option for arbitration in the black market is violence.

Though recent tragic events shock the collective conscious, it is important to consider them in perspective of what is truly killing so many people. The War on Drugs is less of a spectacle than these mass shootings; instead, it is a slow-killing, institutionalized type of violence.

Predictable Black Market Violence

Without legal mechanisms in place, the only option for arbitration in the black market is violence. This violence takes many forms: turf wars between drug suppliers where civilians are also caught in the crossfire; no-knock police raids (sometimes occurring at the wrong house) where suspects are gunned down; drug addicts assaulting others to secure money for their addiction. The multi-faceted nature of the violence makes the task of fully grasping the available data difficult.

The violence of the American Drug War has even spilled over internationally—primarily in Latin America. Between 2007 and 2014, Mexican authorities estimates that 164,000 homicides were the result of cartel violence. For perspective, during the same time period, civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq totaled 103,000 combined.

A Way Forward

How the Drug War is to be dismantled is open for debate; deescalating law enforcement militarization, emphasizing treatment over incarceration, decriminalizing certain substances, or outright legalization are all on the table for consideration.

Despite our backwardness regarding most drug policies, the United States is ahead of most of the international community when it comes to the legalization of cannabis—and we are witnessing some of the positive effects of those efforts.

Even if we ignored the violence inherent in this failed policy, the War on Drugs would still be considered a complete waste of public resources.

Colorado legalized recreational marijuana with Amendment 64 in 2013, resulting in a “green rush” of population growth. Despite the increase in population, Denver police reports indicate a drop in overall crime, including a 24 percent drop in reported homicides.

Granted, the Colorado experiment with legalized marijuana and its benefits is still new. Plus, it is difficult to demonstrate correlation with such a small sample of data. However, there is a distinct correlation between increased policing of controlled substances and the escalating violence of the black market in those substances. The Independent Institute examined arrest and homicide rates throughout the 20th century and concluded that the greatest contributor to violence is “a violent black market caused by the War on Drugs today, and Prohibition in the 1920’s.”

A Terrible Investment

Even if we ignored the violence inherent in this failed policy, the War on Drugs would still be considered a complete waste of public resources. The United States has invested close to a trillion dollars in drug-related law enforcement over the past four decades.

And what was the return on investment? A black market valued at $100 billion annually and a drug use rate that is the highest in the world.

Einstein defined insanity as repeating a specific action and expecting different results. If that’s the case, our current Drug War is—in the words of Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance—the “international projection of a domestic psychosis.”

If we choose to continue down this costly and deadly path, we will continue to reap what we sowed over 82 years ago during our first failed experiment with prohibition: increased use of the banned substance, increased burden of cost on public coffers, and increased loss of life—all due to failed policy.

jay-stooksberry


Jay Stooksberry

Jay Stooksberry is a freelance writer with a passion for liberty, skepticism, humor, and whiskey. When he’s not writing, he splits his time between marketing consultation and spending time with his wife and son. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.