The murder rate in the U.S. rose for the second year in a row in 2016, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. This rise comes after a downward trend in homicide rates that began in the late 1990s and persisted until 2015. Though rates increased slightly in 2016, the per-capita homicide rate is still below where it was just a decade ago: 17,250 people were murdered in the U.S. in 2016 (resulting in a rate of 5.3 per 100,000 inhabitants), compared with 17,034 in 2006 (5.7 per 100,000).
But many in the media don’t want to go any deeper into the numbers. One reason might be that this homicide rate is largely being propelled by gang wars in places like Chicago Heights; Compton, Calif.; and East St. Louis.
There has been little to no increase in murder rates in the places where Americans can exercise their Second Amendment freedoms. Homicides are mostly up in areas with the strictest gun control laws. The murder rate basically hasn’t been rising where Americans have their Second Amendment freedoms. Homicides are mostly up in areas with the strictest gun control laws.
Interestingly, in 2016 property crimes actually went down for the 14th straight year, according to the FBI’s annual report on national crime statistics. This has been occurring as the number of Americans who own guns and the number of Americans with concealed-carry permits—along with the number of states with permitless or “constitutional” carry laws—has been rising quickly across the U.S.
Meanwhile, the FBI’s statistics again show that rifles were used in about 3 percent of murders nationally. This makes it dishonest, to be kind, for someone to blame “assault weapons” for the increase in the homicide rate.
To put this in perspective, realize that in 2016 the FBI reported that 1,604 people were murdered with knives, which is more than four times as many as were killed with any type of rifle.
A deeper dive into the cities and regions where murders are taking place shows that the rise in the murder rate has much to do with gang-related slayings in our most dangerous cities.
After 2015, Neighborhood Scout, a web company that uses FBI crime data and more to calculate how safe communities are, reported that the fact that “murder rates in major U.S. cities are on the decline is popular knowledge. New York City is often held up as the example: in 1990, NYC had more than two thousand homicides, by 2014 that number was down to just over 300. It’s a common trend of many cities, including Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Dallas, among others.”
But today, this is changing in many cities.
The latest National Youth Gang Survey estimate provided by law enforcement agencies reported that there are roughly 30,000 gangs and 850,000 gang members across the U.S. Compared with the previous five-year average, the approximate number of gangs has increased 8 percent, and the estimated number of gang members has risen 11 percent. Larger cities accounted for the largest share of these increases—over 50 percent of the net increase in gangs and gang members over the past five years was due to overall increases in larger cities.
However, Neighborhood Scout says its ranking of the 100 most dangerous cities in the U.S. doesn’t include any in the Pacific Northwest or on the Great Plains or even in New England. “All of the cities on the list, save for those in California, are either on or to the east of the Mississippi River. On the west coast, Oakland is the farthest north,” said Neighborhood Scout, which again based its finding on FBI-gathered data and population sizes calculated by the U.S. Census Bureau. There is no simple answer to explain why homicide rates have risen in specific areas of some cities, but it is clear that Second Amendment freedom is not to blame. These crimes are almost exclusively being committed with illegal, not legal, guns.
There is no simple answer to explain why homicide rates have risen in specific areas of some cities, but it is clear that Second Amendment freedom is not to blame. These crimes are almost exclusively being committed with illegal, not legal, guns.
Nevertheless, anti-gun activists and politicians still blame law-abiding gun owners for the murder rates in these bad neighborhoods because they say the criminals in these places have easy access to guns—since over 100 million Americans enjoy their Second Amendment freedoms. These politicians have lost touch not just with the meaning of our individual rights, but also of the individual responsibility that our justice system enforces and relies upon.
Blaming freedom might be an easy way for them to point fingers away from their failed policies, but thankfully most Americans see through this ruse.
It’s actually a crass and political waste of time and resources to blame constitutional freedom for the criminal behavior of a few. These public officials should instead cross that reason off their list as they focus in on the real problems plaguing these unfortunate communities.
Frank Miniter is the author of Kill Big Brother, a novel that shows how to keep government from infringing on our liberties. Miniter is also the author of the The New York Times' bestseller The Ultimate Man’s Survival Guide—Recovering the Lost Art of Manhood, This Will Make a Man of You and The Future of the Gun. He is a contributor to Forbes and writes for many publications. His website is FrankMiniter.com.