Misleading gun statistic

I’ve seen one particular statement replayed several times over, and it’s rather misleading in its representation: gun deaths have been cut in half over the last 20+ years. Let’s look at the numbers.

First, firearms-related homicides peaked in 1993 at 18,253 according to the CDC. Then the numbers started dropping like a rock and bottomed out at 10,801 in 2000. That is actually the lowest year on record since 1981 for total homicides. But then the number actually started going back up, and haven’t been below 11,000 since 2000.

So it’s misleading to imply that “gun deaths” have been going down steadily since 1993. Instead it’s safer to say that firearms-related homicides have been going steadily up and down for about the last 15 years, kind of circling around 12,000 homicides per year.

But then it’s also misleading to go on raw numbers.

In 1993, again the peak year for pure firearms-related homicide numbers, the crude rate of homicides per 100,000 population was 7.02. That steadily declined and bottomed out in 2000 as well at 3.83 per 100,000, a 45% reduction in the firearms-related homicide rate.

But just like the pure homicide numbers, the homicide rate then started going up until it topped out at 4.28 in 2006, an 11.7% increase across those years. But then it started going back down, reaching 3.55 in 2011, lower than 2000’s firearms homicide rate. And though it would bump back up to 3.70 in 2012, it dropped again in 2013 and again in 2014 to 3.45, a rate that is about 1/2 the firearms-related homicide rate of 1993.

All of these numbers can be found through the CDC WISQARS Fatal Injury Reports.