On Gun Crimes in the USA

A collection of random-ish facts about gun crimes in the USA.

A good bit of effort has been spent to stick with reliable sources and raw numbers. To that end, newspaper articles (which may or may not properly explain relevant data) are not cited in this page. National crime statistics are readily available at the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports website (https://ucr.fbi.gov/ucr). These are the official numbers that everyone (CDC, NHIN, etc) uses, and the primary source for stats on this page. (The reports include crime stats by age, gender and race, but oddly enough, no government national database ever bothered to track police brutality/fatalities. The best source for that is the Washington Post “Fatal Force” database. This is 2018. 2017. 2016. Another that I’m checking out is a blogsite http://www.fatalencounters.org/)

Preliminary Stats on race (census.gov):

  • According to the US Census, as of 2017, whites make up 76+% of the US population. Blacks are around 13.3%, Asians are 5+%, Hispanics are 17+% (but there’s overlap between ‘white’ and ‘hispanic’, so that’s why the numbers add up to over 100%)
    It’s important to keep those numbers in mind when perusing stats on crime and race.

Gun Homicide (ucr.fbi.gov/ucr):
(All stats are in raw numbers, not per-capita, except as noted.)

  • Gun homicides have been in decline since the mid-90s, from as high 16,000 per year, down to around 10,000 in 2017 (this does not include suicides).
  • For most years on record, murders were committed by knife ~5x more often than by rifle.
  • Depending on the year, homicide by handgun is ~20x higher than by rifle. Assault rifles, a subcategory of rifles, are used in a fraction of those rifle homicides.
  • Of the 11,000 annual homicides, about 52% per year are committed by black males, usually shooting at other black males. In other words, 7% of the population is responsible for ~50% of all homicides.
  • Homicide rate for blacks is ~8x higher than whites. Hispanic homicide rates are about 3x higher than whites.
  • For all races, the overwhelming majority of homicides are committed by people between the ages of 15 and 35. The homicide rate for people over 50 years old is about 1/4 of the homicide rate of 20-25 year olds (the same age stats apply to homicide victims)
  • Offenders and victims are almost always of the same race.
  • In interracial homicides, blacks kill whites twice as often as whites kill blacks .
  • Males are killed ~4x more often females
  •  While blacks are killed slightly more frequently than whites (1.2 : 1), white females are killed far more frequently than black females (almost 2 to 1 [that one surprised me])
  •  Males kill almost 9x more frequently than females

From other sources (I compiled these a few weeks ago, but I’m too lazy to look up the exact links. Google will help you)

  • (nih.org – National Institute of Health) Less than 4% of violence against others (homicide, robbery, etc) are committed by people with serious mental health issues. (Mental health is more strongly linked to suicide, but not violence against others). Homicide is most often attributed to gang activity, alcohol use, anger, life trauma (divorce, etc)
  • (Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy) Approx 90% of adult murderers have arrest records, including multiple adult felony arrests.
  • (Harvard) Although blacks are more likely to be experience physical violence from police (punch, kick, etc), they are significantly less likely than whites to be shot by police. (This is corroborated by the WP Fatal Force Database)
  • (Washington Post “Fatal Force” 2018 database.  2017. 2016) There are approx 1,100,000 active-duty policemen/women.
    -Approx 1,000 people are killed by police each year over the past 3 years.
    -Whites are killed by cops 2x more often than blacks.
    -Fewer than 5% of police shootings were described by the Washington Post as “suspicious” (ie, the facts known about the situation didn’t pass the WP’s smell test. Whether or not the police department or a jury considered it “suspicious” is not known)
    -Of the “suspicious” killings in 2016, roughly 23 were white, and 11 were black
    -For perspective… no white person shot by police made national headlines for more than a day
  • Mass shooters are 3x more likely to be white than blacks, and 4x more likely to be white than Hispanics. (This stat is always difficult to nail down because there are (wildly!) varying definitions of “mass shooting”, depending on the researcher. It can even include a gang-banger killing/injuring 4 drug dealers in a crack house, even though the average citizen would never consider that a “mass shooting”)
  • A 10-year ban on assault rifles in the 1990s showed essentially no decrease in homicide rates (overall gun crimes were in steady decline before, during and after the 10-year period, with no detectable difference during the ban).
  • On average, “school shootings” (a crazy nut shooting random helpless people trapped in a school) account for less than 0.0004% of gun homicides.
  • Bump stocks account for roughly 0.0000046% of homicides over the past decade.
  • Although AR-15s have been used in the most prolific mass shootings, they account for
  • Depending on which study you want to cite, guns are used lawfully by citizens to deter anywhere between 35,000 – 2.5 million crimes per year. [I’m not sure why the number varies that much, but even the lowest number is still significantly higher than the total number of homicides each year]

For comparison’s sake 

  • On average, 210,000 people die from medical malpractice per year (ihi.org – Institute of Medicine)
  • Drug overdose rates are rapidly rising over the past few years, hitting 64,000 deaths in 2016 (a 19% jump over 2015), with opioids as the fastest growing category (drugabuse.gov)
  • 36,600 car accident fatalities for 2016 (iihs.org – Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
  • Fatalities due to bike riding are ~8x higher than fatalities from mass shootings. (NHTSB) 
  • And just by way of reminder, gun homicides are 11,000 per year (averaged over the past couple of years).

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