A Pew research poll has shown a remarkable disparity between what American believe about firearm violence and reality, and the relationship between gun ownership and local crime rates.
Despite national attention to the issue of firearm violence, most Americans are unaware that gun crime is lower today than it was two decades ago despite a dramatic increase in gun ownership. According to a new Pew Research Center survey, today 56% of Americans believe gun crime is higher than 20 years ago and only 12% think it is lower.
National rates of gun homicide and other violent gun crimes are strikingly lower now than during their peak in the mid-1990s, paralleling a general decline in violent crime, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of government data.
The number of firearms available for sale to or possessed by U.S. civilians (about 310 million in 2009, according to the Congressional Research Service) has grown in recent years, and the 2009 per capita rate of one person per gun had roughly doubled since 1968.
One focus of interest is that gun ownership varies widely by region and locality. The National Academy of Sciences review of possible influences on crime trends said there is good evidence of a link between firearm ownership and firearm homicide at the local level; “the causal direction of this relationship remains in dispute, however, with some researchers maintaining that firearm violence elevates rates of gun ownership, but not the reverse.”
A study published by the American Journal of Public Health, often cited by gun control advocates, concludes a correlation of gun ownership with firearm homicide rates, but does not show cause and effect. Also the Department of Justice claims that 40% of gun related crimes involve un-owned illegal guns. Removing this data would have a significant impact on the correlation between firearm homicide rate and gun ownership. In other words, do people in neighborhoods with high gun violence tend to own guns, and not the other way around? This would bias the correlation, and it show a meaningless cause and effect of gun ownership and crime rates.
Most studies have shown that violent crime decreases as legal gun ownership increases. Using crimes rates attributed to illegal guns as evidence to support strengthening guns laws is a distortion of reality since guns laws have little impact on the illegal ownership of guns.