Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Is Banning Assault Rifles the Solution?

Now that President Obama has outlined his plan for firearms control, in this posting, I want to take a look at the nation's homicide data from the FBI website, in particular, focussing on the use of firearms including rifles in committing murder since part of the President's plan includes proposed limitations on the ownership of assault rifles.

Just in case you didn't catch them all, here is a list of the 23 Executive Orders signed by the President in an effort to address gun crime:

Now, let's take a look at the FBI data.  Here is a listing of all homicides in the United States from 2007 to 2011 showing the means by which the killing was accomplished:

In 2011, of the 12,664 murders, 8,583 or 67.8 percent of the total were accomplished using firearms of one sort or another.  Of the firearms used in murders, 6,220 or 72.6 percent of the total were handguns with only 323 or 3.8 percent of the total being rifles.  Admittedly, in 1,587 murder cases, the type of firearm used to commit the murder was not stated, however, the distribution of these unknown firearms quite likely reflects the same proportion as in the majority of the cases.  Interestingly, in 728 cases, personal weapons including pushing, hands, fists and feet were used to commit homicide, over twice the number of murders committed using rifles of all types.

In the five year period from 2007 to 2011, the number of murders committed using firearms dropped by a not insignificant amount, from 10,129 in 2007 to 8,583 in 2011, a drop of 15.3 percent.  The number of murders committed using rifles dropped by an even greater 28.7 percent, from 453 to 367.

It is also interesting to see that, overall, the total number of violent crimes committed in the United States has dropped since 2007 as shown on this graph:

From 2007 to 2011, violent crimes as a whole dropped by 15.4 percent to 1.204 million crimes in 2011 with murder accounting for only 1.2 percent of violent crimes.  As I noted above, firearms were used in 67.8 percent of homicides and were also used in 41.3 percent of robberies and 21.2 percent of aggravated assaults.

The FBI's violent crime database does show us some interesting trends.  Both the number of violent crimes and the number of homicides using firearms are down markedly over the past five years and, in all five years, the use of rifles to commit murder is relatively insignificant and dropping, a number that I found surprising.  

There is no doubt that the recent school shooting that was partially committed using assault weapons was horrific, unfortunately, the FBI's own statistics show that banning these weapons will do little to reduce the overall number of homicides committed using guns when the carrier has "murder in their eyes" as there are plenty of other apparently more attractive options available.  It will have one likely repercussion however, those who want to murder a large number of people at one time will be forced to carry firearms that can easily be concealed under loose clothing, an even more frightening prospect.  While a ban on assault rifles makes for great headlines in the mainstream media, it solves only a tiny fraction of the issue.


  1. Many times I hear our American murder rate compared to other industrial country's rates to demonstrate how bad ours is due to widespread gun ownership. However, if the raw numbers are more critically evaluated it is revealed that young black males account for a vastly disproportionate amount of the killings. When the statistics are separated along ethnic lines it quickly becomes clear that the resultant murder rates for non-blacks is little different than those of the other, more ethnically homogeneous, industrialized countries. America's is not a 'gun' problem so much as it is a 'young black male' behavioral problem.

    1. Are young black males not americans?

  2. Yes, but it would violate all politically correct Progressive narratives to admit that there are substantial problems down on the ol' Democrat Plantation generally called the "African-American Culture."

  3. Dear Greg -- where are you getting the "statistics ... separated along ethnic lines" from? Not that I doubt you, of course. Just wondering what other variables might correlate -- like level of education, income status, presence of two parent family, median summer temperature, health status, tax base, etc. It would be helpful if a single variable could explain all this. There's always a first time, i suppose.

  4. It also seems to me that if we were to take out gang related killings, the numbers would again be different. Overall, I think what is needed is "people control" not "gun control". Better background checks and track of gun owners would be better than what type of gun a legitimate gun owner can have. "People control" should include treatment and/or institulization of mentally ill before they commit crimes, not after they are found guilty of one.

  5. Welcome to Minority Report.... :)