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.