The next time you hear someone criticizing the United States for
being a “crime-ridden” country, and especially if they say
that handguns are “responsible” for American violence, you can
tell them that they are totally off target–on both counts.
The facts of the matter are, purely and simply: Crime in the United
States has hit a record low. In fact, the U.S. does not even rank in
the top 10 most violent countries in the world. And anyone who claims
that handgun availability contributes to crime, or that gun control laws
reduce crime, is a boldfaced liar.
Late in 1984, the Federal Bureau of Investigation released its
latest Uniform Crime Reports, based on crime data collected by local
police departments during 1983. According to the FBI data, serious
crime in the United States has reached a record low, with crime dropping
for an unprecedented third straight year.
The FBI’s “Crime in the United States, 1983” showed
that firearm involvement in U.S. homicide dropped to its lowest level
since 1966–and that has been without any new national gun control law.
Here are the facts, according to the FBI.
Fact One: For the second consecutive year, handguns were involved
in less than 44 percent of U.S. homicides, compared to approximately 50
percent in 1981.
Fact Two: Handgun involvement in homicide has been dropping for
three straight years. There were 8,193 reported handgun-related
homicides in 1983, compared to 8,474 in 1982, almost 9,200 in 1981 and
more than 10,000 in 1980. (Those figures, incidentally, include
criminals killed by criminals, some criminals killed by private citizens
in self-defense, and persons murdered by others in the U.S.).
Fact Three: Firearm involvement in homicide, and this includes all
guns–rifles, shotguns and handguns–fell 3 percent in 1983 over the
Fact Four: Firearm (again all types of guns) involvement in robbery
fell to the lowest level ever measured by the FBI, which started keeping
track of this category in 1974.
Fact Five: Firearm involvement in aggravated assault has not been
lower in the U.S. since 1967.
Fact Six: There were 16 percent fewer gun-related robberies in 1983
than in 1982, and 20 percent fewer than in 1981.
We hear so much today in the news about “crime in the cities,
crime in the streets.” Just where is that crime concentrated and
According to the FBI reports, Detroit leads the nation among cities
with populations 500,000 or more as the country’s most violent
metropolis. It is followed by Boston, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., New
York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Orleans, Cleveland and Chicago.
For skeptics, those are the “Top Ten” cities’ crime
rates, taking into consideration their populations, so no one can say
they are the most violent merely because of their size.
All the top 10 cities have some form of tough gun control laws,
including: handgun bans or handgun “freezes”; waiting periods
and background checks on handgun buyers; strict permit-to-purchase or
permit-to-carry statutes; anti-gun police or administrations; or a
combination of one or more of these anti-gun measures.
Among cities in the 250,000 to 500,000 population range, Newark,
for the second year in a row, was the most violent U.S. city, followed
by Miami, Atlanta and Oakland. All of them have at least one strict
anti-gun law interfering with the right of law-abiding citizens to keep
and bear arms.
The FBI crime figures continue to show, as they have for many
years, that areas with high per capita firearm ownership and few gun
control restrictions have the lowest crime rates in America. In fact,
the safest state in the country in 1983-and for several years before
that–was North Dakota, where there are lots of law-abiding gun owners
and very few gun control laws.
How does the United States compare with other nations in terms of
violence? According to figures released late in 1984 by Interpol, a
world-wide crime-fighting organization headquartered in Paris, the U.S.
was not even in the top 10 in overall crime among nations. The U.S.
ranked 11th in the crime rate category. Lebanon, Guyana, St.
Kitts-Nevis and Anguilla (tied), Finland, Sweden, New Zealand, Denmark,
Fiji, Monaco, Trinidad and Tobago (tied) placed 1-10.
The U.S. also ranks 11th in murder and 22nd in the sex offense
category, but placed 4th in three areas: drug-related offenses, grand
theft, and juvenile crime.
Granted, there is no crime level in America that is
“acceptable.” But realistically, we do not live in a country
“overrun” with crime. America is safer today than it was 4, 5,
or almost 20 years ago, and that has nothing to do with gun control
According to leading criminal justice authorities, our crime drop
is tied to tougher penalties at the state and federal level, increased
public involvement in neighborhood crime prevention programs and the
adoption, in many states, of mandatory sentences for persons who use
firearms while committing a crime.
Additionally, the current U.S. prison population is at an all-time
high, with more than 454,000 persons in American prisons. The
country’s historic problem with recidivist criminals–habitual
felons responsible for an estimated 80 percent of violent crime–seems
to be on the wane, as more and more prisoners are kept behind bars for
longer periods of time.
So, the next time you hear someone calling for gun control as a
“solution” to America’s crime, you might tell them that
they would be serving the country better if they: One, supported
mandatory jail sentences, particularly for drug pushers; two, built more
jails to house more criminals, especially juvenile offenders; and three,
kept a close eye on their homes and the homes of their neighbors.
And one more thing: You might suggest that they buy a gun.