"Gun-related deaths significantly lower than 20 years ago, study finds"
SALT LAKE CITY — Gun-related murders have dropped by nearly half since the early 1990s, according to a new study released by the Pew Research Center.
The report comes on the heels of legislators around the country attempting to pass legislation to combat the proliferation of so-called "assault weapons" in the hands of American citizens. Lawmakers cite the tragic shootings in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn., as recent examples of why firearms need to be more regulated.
The report shows that gun-related deaths were highest in 1993, when there were approximately seven deaths per 100,000 Americans. The rate significantly dropped to 3.8 deaths per 100,000 by 2000, and continues to fall, dropping to 3.6 deaths per 100,000 in 2010.
"Compared with 1993," the report states, "the peak of U.S. gun homicides, the firearm homicide rate was 49 percent lower in 2010, and there were fewer deaths, even though the nation's population grew."
The study also found that violent crimes involving a firearm also decreased, seeing a 75 percent drop in crimes.
"The victimization rate for other violent crimes with a firearm — assaults, robberies and sex crimes — was 75 percent lower in 2011 than in 1993," the report says. "Violent non-fatal crime victimization overall (with or without a firearm) also is down markedly (72 percent) over two decades."
The rates dropped most in the late ‘90s, as lawmakers passed federal legislation — Federal Assault Weapons Ban — in 1994 to prohibit the purchasing of semi-automatic firearms. The ban, however, expired in 2004 and there has been no increase in gun-related deaths, according to the study.
"Looking back 50 years, the U.S. gun homicide rate began rising in the 1960s, surged in the 1970s, and hit peaks in 1980 and the early 1990s," the study says. "The plunge in homicides after that meant that firearm homicide rates in the late 2000s were equal to those not seen since the early 1960s.
"The sharp decline in the U.S. gun homicide rate, combined with a slower decrease in the gun suicide rate, means that gun suicides account for six-in-10 firearms deaths," the study continues, "the highest share since at least 1981."
Despite the recent attention of gun-related deaths, and the nationwide attempts to curb the sale of semi-automatic firearms and high capacity magazines, Pew found that many Americans are unaware of the lower crime rates. In a recent survey, Pew found that 56 percent of Americans believe gun crime is higher than 20 years ago. It found that only 12 percent of Americans believed gun crimes were lower.
Nevertheless, mass shootings are still a public concern, and deserve attention, Pew said. However, Pew found that such violent acts were a "relatively small share of shootings overall."