Collaboration in Civic Spheres

New DOJ report: U.S. firearm homicide rate at 18-year low

by Matt Rosenberg May 16th, 2013

The rate of firearm-related homicides in the U.S. in 2011 was 3.6 per 100,000 persons, the same as in 2010 and otherwise lower than any year from 1993 forward, according to a new report from the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics. The previous low in the 18-year study period was 3.8 in 2000. And, according to the BJS report, the rate in 2011 of non-fatal firearm victimizations, or reported acts of violence in which firearms were used, was 1.8 per 1,000 people 12 and older. That was up one-fifth of one percent from the last two years but down five-and-one-half points since 1993.

The May 2013 report from BJS also notes that firearm homicide rates by race continued to decline for all five groups measured. The rate for African-Americans dropped from 30.1 per 100,000 in 1993 to 14.6 in 2011, a new low over that stretch. Over the same span the rate for whites went from 3.7 to 1.9, for Hispanics from 12.4 to 3.8, for American Indian/Alaska Natives from 4.6 to 2.7, and for Asian/Pacific Islanders from 4.6 to 1.0.

By gender, the firearms homicide rate for men dropped from 12 per 100,000 in 1993 to 6.2 in 2010 and for females from 2.3 to 1.1 over the same time.

From Firearm Violence, 1993-2011, U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, May, 2013; * = 2011 preliminary data from National Vital Statistics System, U.S. Centers for Disease Control

By age, the firearm homicide rate was greatest for 18-24 year olds, at 10.7 per 100,000. That compared to 8.1 per 100,000 for 25-34s, 3.6 for 35-49s, 2.8 for 12-17s and 1.4 percent for those 50 and older. This was for 2010 – the most recent year for which data on that measure was available.

Firearms were far more likely than not to be involved in U.S. homicides but much less so in other crimes. Almost seven of 10 homicides in the U.S. in 2011 involved a firearm versus one-quarter of robberies and three of 10 aggravated assaults.

The data in the report on firearms-related homicides is drawn from the National Vital Statistics System of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control; while calculations on non-fatal firearms-related violence are derived from the National Crime Victimization Survey, a series of ongoing, rotating probes of a nationally representative sample of households.

From 2007 through 2011, respondents to the national crime surveys reported they responded to violent crime directed at them in a range of ways. Less than one percent of the time they used firearms. More than one of five times they threatened or attacked without a weapon. More than one-quarter of the time they used non-confrontational tactics; and more than four of ten times they offered no resistance at all.

The biggest cities were not where non-fatal firearm violence was most likely to occur. Its rate was higher in municipalities of half a million to a million, at 4.6 incidences per 1,000 population 12 or older, versus 3.9 per 1,000 in cities of one-quarter to one-half million and 3.2 in cities of a million or more. In only two years since 1993 have cities of a half million to one million not had the highest rate of non-fatal firearms related violence. From 2007-2011 such crimes were reported to the police six of 10 times versus slightly less than half the time for non-firearm violence.

Of all homicides of youth age five to 18 in the U.S., less than two percent each year occur at schools. The high from 1992-93 through 2008-09 was 1.8 percent in 1998-99. Data for the last three school years were not available.

The new report also includes some older data from the last two times – in 1997 and 2004 – that the BJS surveyed state and federal prison inmates about possession of firearms during commission of crimes for which they were currently serving a sentence. In both years, less than one in five in both categories of inmates reported having had a firearm at the time of their crime. State prison inmates surveyed in both 1997 and 2004 reported their firearms came from gun shows less than one percent of the time. In nearly four of five instances, their firearms came from either a family or friend, or a street or illegal source.


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