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.
Tagged: gun violence
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.
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 Tuesday May 31, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) published their latest report in a long-standing series on school crime and safety. The recent report focuses on 2020 youth victimizations rates at school and away from school. The findings weren’t incredibly notewothy, though there is one point worth noting: they found that the at-school victimization rate declined about 60% from 2019 to 2020, but the out-of-school victimization rate remained fairly stable.
This report builds from the more comprehensive findings released in a July 2021 report, which provided information on the prevalence of school shootings, which has been a primary concern in recent months and especially so in the wake of the recent elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. The data from these reports was collected from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) and the School Crime Supplement. In July 2022, the BJS will release a more comprehensive publication (more akin to the July 2021 report) with updated data for 2021.
The numbers regarding school shootings are very important to understand, but unfortunately are misleading in terms of how they are presented in the BJS/NCES reports. To better understand this issue, I took a deeper dive into the raw data from Homeland Security’s K-12 School Shooting Database along with two other sources: the Violence Project’s database on mass shooters and the Washington Post’s database on school shootings.
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).
Clearance rates for criminal investigations are a prominent component of offense deterrence. When offenders are not apprehended, the potential deterrent effect of sanctions is diminished and police legitimacy undermined. Clearance rates for serious crimes in the United States have remained essentially unchanged over the last four decades despite decreases in the index crime rate (and more recently, increases in the homicide rate specifically). Moreover, this is surprising considering how technology has advanced during this time. Data from the Uniform Crime Report shows that the nationwide homicide clearance rate decreased from approximately 83% in 1965 to 61% in 2007. It has stabilized in the last decade, with most recent estimates showing 62% in 2018. Hypothesized reasons for declines in clearance rates include an increase in the proportion of homicides involving strangers (e.g. gang- and drug-related violence as opposed to intimate relationship violence), declining societal support for police efforts, and increased regulation of police practices.