A new report from the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) reviews some of the recently released state-level data on 2021 California crime rates. Once again, it seems like the authors are overselling the fact that crime rates are lower than the 1990s crime peak, although their findings are similar to what I found when I analyzed the data last month. Indeed, crime rates are lower than they were in the 1990s. But keep in mind that the 1990s saw a historic crime peak. If “success” means having crime rates that are lower than the historic peak, then that’s a pretty low bar for success. It’s almost like saying that the 2008 recession wasn’t that bad because it was still better than the Great Depression.
After declining for over two decades, homicides in the United States increased sharply in 2015 and 2016. This slowed a little bit in the years that followed, until another dramatic increase in homicides occurred in 2020. In fact, the 30% increase from 2019-2020 is the largest ever recorded. By 2021, homicides rose another 5%. This uptick was not as striking as the one seen in 2020, though the numbers were still higher than pre-2019.
A recent report from the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) published this month provided in-depth information on federal firearms offenders sentenced in 2021 under the primary firearms guideline, §2K2.1. This report is part of a larger series that examines various aspects of firearms offenses, such as mandatory minimum penalties and firearms offenders’ recidivism rates. USSC’s past research has found that firearms offenders are generally younger, have more extensive criminal histories, are more likely to recidivate, and are more likely to engage in violent criminal behavior. The number of firearms offenses has risen in recent years, and this report provides details that may be useful to policymakers. Continue reading . . .
Misleading numbers: Why are suicides and homicides lumped together under the “gun violence” umbrella?
A recent article in TIME Magazine purports that “California’s answer to gun violence could be a model for the entire country.” In sum, the article states that California’s firearm violence has decreased over the last 20 years or so, relative to the rest of the country. They attribute this to the various gun legislation passed in California over the years that disrupted the manufacturing of cheap guns within the state, closed private sales loopholes, and restricted gun ownership for people convicted of a violent misdemeanor. But when looking at the actual data, these claims appear misleading.
A new article by Thomas Hogan of the Manhattan Institute discusses some of the recent data on crime trends presented by the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC). One important point brought up in that piece concerns the recidivism of federal firearms offenders. Federal firearms offenders are usually convicted of being felons-in-possession of firearms, or they are convicted of carrying a firearm related to another crime such as drug trafficking or robbery. Per the USSC’s 2021 annual report, firearms offenders recidivate at a higher rate than all other offenders, with almost 70 percent being re-arrested within eight years of release. A complementary USSC report discusses these findings in more detail, noting that recidivism rates for firearms offender were consistently higher than non-firearms offenders regardless of age and criminal history.
The California DOJ recently released new and updated firearms data, available through the OpenJustice Data Platform. The Firearms Dashboard includes data from the past decade on things like dealer records of sales, gun violence restraining orders, concealed weapons permits, assault weapons ownership, and more. There are also a variety of links to supplemental resources, such as the California Firearms Law Summary. The portal shows how many guns were purchased each month and year, and this is also broken down by county, manufacturer, type of transaction (e.g., dealer sale, private party sale, pawn shop), race and age of the purchaser, and more. Similarly, the same breakdowns are available for gun violence restraining orders, assault weapons registrations, concealed weapon licenses, and more.
On November 30, 2021, the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) published new findings on 8-year recidivism rates of 5,659 federal firearms offenders released in 2010. This report is part of a larger multi-year recidivism study of more than 32,000 federal offenders and also serves as an update to a previous USSC report on firearms and recidivism that examined an earlier cohort released in 2005.
The data showed that 69% of firearms offenders were re-arrested within eight years post-release, compared with 45% of all other offenders (a difference of 24%), and the overall median time to re-arrest was 16 months. For both firearms offenders and non-firearms offenders, the most common offense at re-arrest was assault (26% and 19%, respectively), followed by drug trafficking (11.9% and 11.4%, respectively). Importantly, these findings support the idea that firearms-related offenders are more dangerous and more likely to recidivate than other types of offenders. This finding held regardless of criminal history and age, and may justify the need for sentence enhancements based on certain factors (e.g., use of a firearm).