By Frank Wessling
The number of murder victims in the United States, most from gunfire, is much lower now than it was in the early 1990s. Homicides had risen steadily through the 1960s from fewer than 10,000 per year to 20,000 in the early ‘70s, continued to hover around that number until a peak of 25,000 in 1993, and then fell quickly to just over 16,000 in ’99. Since then the trend line has shifted slightly upward to around 18,000.
Since the mass killing in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater last month this pattern of declining or steady homicide rates has been used as an argument against the need for stricter gun control. We should not panic just because one deranged person misuses a gun, it’s said.
It’s not because of panic that better gun control is needed in this country. That has always been a reasonable position. There is no real need in this society for citizens to possess semi-automatic guns. There is no real need for walking around with a concealed gun. There is no real need for businesses that sell bullets to the public by the gross.
Homicide rates rose dramatically as the population of young males in their late teens and 20s rose through the 1960s and ‘70s. It was the Baby Boom bulge going through its period of volatility. The drop in murder rates in the 1990s also corresponds to a period of steady economic growth and job security.
Many factors go into murder rates. Guns and their availability are only part. Still, the United States has the highest gun-killing rate among all modern, industrialized societies in the world. Our permissive laws keep us in that awful position. We should be ashamed.