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Is our homicide problem a firearm problem?

    That depends, in part, on definitions. Certainly, non-firearm homicide rates in the United States are high compared to other industrialized western nations but the most critical component of the homicide rate in the United States is the firearm homicide rate (which had an annual average of 66.5% of homicides over the period and a correlation to total homicides of 0.9183 compared to 0.3336 for all other means.)

Will reducing firearm homicides reduce overall homicides?

    Establishing a correlation (even as high as the one between firearms homicides and all homicides) does not define the causes and effects. If the homicide rate is totally the result of other causes, then all removing firearms would do is replace the firearm homicides with those by other means.

    But the more likely answer, as one pair of researchers/1/ has noted, is that, while the availability of firearms may not cause violence, it makes that violence more lethal.

Homicide Victimization by Means

Homicide Victimization - 1979-1997
By Means
Year All
Means
Firearms OT
Firearms
Firearm
Pct
1979 10.0 6.6 3.4 66.0%
1980 10.6 7.0 3.7 65.4%
1981 10.2 6.7 3.6 65.2%
1982 9.5 6.0 3.5 63.3%
1983 8.5 5.2 3.3 61.3%
1984 8.2 5.0 3.2 61.2%
1985 8.2 5.0 3.2 60.9%
1986 8.8 5.4 3.4 61.5%
1987 8.5 5.2 3.2 61.8%
1988 8.9 5.7 3.2 63.8%
1989 9.2 6.0 3.2 65.5%
1990 10.1 6.8 3.3 67.4%
1991 10.8 7.5 3.3 69.4%
1992 10.3 7.4 2.9 71.7%
1993 10.6 7.7 2.8 73.4%
1994 10.1 7.4 2.7 73.7%
1995 9.2 6.6 2.7 71.3%
1996 8.4 5.9 2.5 70.6%
1997 7.9 5.6 2.3 70.7%

Source: CDC,National Center for Injury Prevention & Control, US Injury Mortality Statistics at http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/osp/usmort.htm, viewed 2/18/2001

Footnotes

1. Zimring, Frankin E. & Hawkins, Gordon, Crime is Not the Problem : Lethal Violence in America, Oxford University Press, New York, 1997, pg 122.
©1997 Oxford University Press.    Back^

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©Copyright, 2001, Mike Rosenberg
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