Back in October the FBI released their crime report for 2018 which showed that violent crime not only fell another 4% from the previous year, but dropped 14.6% over the last decade. Immediately the hot-air balloon for the gun industry, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) issued a press release contrasting this trend with the continued strong sale of assault rifles, the obvious conclusion being that guns protect us from crime.
So the gun industry is finally admitting to something that they have been trying to deny for years, namely, that the so-called ‘modern sporting rifle’ is nothing more than a marketing scam to pretend that a gun that was designed for military and tactical purposes is just another good, old hunting gun. And how could anyone feel that any kind of hunting gun shouldn’t be protected by the 2nd Amendment, right?
The fact is that the AR is advertised and sold as a ‘self-defense’ gun. Now maybe companies like Bushmaster and Smith & Wesson are thinking of AR-owners as using their ‘black’ guns to defend themselves against an invasion from Iran, Iraq or from outer space. But let’s not quibble over technicalities; anyone who thinks that a bottom-loading gun which can discharge 100 rounds of military-grade ammunition in 4 minutes or less is a ‘sporting’ weapon has about as much of a grasp on reality as someone who believes that Rudy Giuliani is in love with the American way of life.
When I first started writing about guns back in 2012, the most vicious and angry comments I received from Gun-nut Nation was whenever I stated that the AR-15 was a military gun. ‘How can you call this a military gun when the Army uses guns that are full-auto and this gun is just another semi-automatic gun?’ That was one of the more polite comments I used to receive.
In fact, the current battle weapon carried by our troops, the M-4 carbine, can be set to fire in semi-auto mode or 3-shot burst. And I have yet to receive an answer from any of the Gun-nut Nation hot-air balloons when I ask them to explain how, if he sets the gun to fire once time every time the trigger is pulled, a soldier can go into battle with a modern sporting rifle.
Which brings us back to the claim made by the NSSF that the decline in violent crime has something to do with the continued popularity and sales of the AR-15. Except this drop in violent crime happens to have occurred at the same time that the homicide rate has gone up. Meanwhile, the percentage of murders committed with guns (72%) has remained constant over the last several years.
In fact, guns have been the weapon of choice for people who kill other people for a century, if not more. According to Brearley’s study of homicide, data from the U.S. Division of Vital Statistics, of the 63,906 murders committed between 1920 through 1926, 45,666 were committed with firearms, which just happens to be 72%. Of course in 1920 the national population stood at 106 million, which means the homicide rate was, on average, around 10 percent. In 2017 the CDC says that the U.S. homicide rate was around 6 per hundred thou.
On the other hand, in both 1981 and 1991 the overall homicide rate was above 10 and in both years, guns figured in roughly 70% of all homicidal events. Up, down, no matter which way the murder rate goes, each year the number of people who kill someone else without using a gun stays more or less the same. And guess what? The U.S. murder rate which doesn’t have anything to do with guns is also higher than what happens in other advanced nation-states.
The bottom line is that talking about gun violence as uniquely American may obscure the fact that America is an exceptionally-violent country with or without guns. Anyone have an answer for that one?