Thursday, April 19, 2007

Violence and Guns

In the U.S., the violent crime rate is about 80 times the crime rate for murder and non-negligent manslaughter (about three-quarters of the lower rate involves the use of firearms). Over a lifetime, out of 1,000 Americans 361 will be victimized by violent crime in their lifetimes, with four the victim of murder or non-negligent manslaughter (three of whom dying from the homicidal use of firearms) and 328 the victims of other violent crime that does not involve firearms. An additional eight people will die from other uses of firearms (that is, a total of 12 will die from use of firearms).

In terms of perpetrators, the number of people arrested for violent crime is less than half the number violent crimes (this is consistent for crimes involving death). This implies that either half have not been caught, or there are two crimes per criminal. By comparison, about one in five people own enough firearms to arm over two-thirds of the population, and each firearm can kill many, many people.

These statistics highlight the ambiguity of the gun control issue. If we want to reduce violent crime, then firearms are a small part of the problem. If we want to reduce crime that results in death, then firearms are a large part of the problem; they are, as I’ve said, weapons of mass destruction.

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