As a child growing up in the 1970s, I remember how violent the streets of America were. Especially in West Haven. Are they worse now?
There were far more homicides in the United States during the 1980s and 1990s, and more during the 1970s. The homicide rate in the US was cut in half between 1991 and 2014.
School shootings have also decreased in frequency.
Northeastern University released a preview of new research by James Alan Fox which shows that there is no growing trend in school shootings:
Mass school shootings are incredibly rare events. In research publishing later this year, Fox and doctoral student Emma Fridel found that on average, mass murders occur between 20 and 30 times per year, and about one of those incidents on average takes place at a school.
The Northeastern University also finds that shooting incidents involving students have been declining since the 1990s, where four times the number of children were killed in schools in the early 1990s than today.
“There is not an epidemic of school shootings,” he said, adding that more kids are killed each year from pool drownings or bicycle accidents. There are around 55 million school children in the United States, and on average over the past 25 years, about 10 students per year were killed by gunfire at school,” according to Fox and Fridel’s research.
Schools in the United States are safer today than at any time in recent memory. Criminal victimization in America’s education facilities has declined in tandem with the nation’s collapsing crime rate. Meanwhile, as of 2013, the year after the Newtown massacre, mass shootings accounted for only 1.5 percent of all gun deaths in the United States, or 502 total fatalities.
While Northeastern University research does not oppose policy changes like increasing the age for purchasing guns, the data concludes it will be unlikely to do much, “The thing to remember is that these are extremely rare events, and no matter what you can come up with to prevent it, the shooter will have a workaround.” The report notes that over the past 35 years, there have been only five cases in which someone ages 18 to 20 used an assault rifle in a mass shooting.
Leah Libresco at the Washington Post —concluded that gun control measures are of extremely limited value:
My colleagues and I at FiveThirtyEight spent three months analyzing all 33,000 lives ended by guns each year in the United States, and I wound up frustrated in a whole new way. We looked at what interventions might have saved those people and the case for the policies I’d lobbied for crumbled when I examined the evidence…
I researched the strictly tightened gun laws in Britain and Australia and concluded that they didn’t prove much about what America’s policy should be. Neither nation experienced drops in mass shootings or other gun related-crime that could be attributed to their buybacks and bans. Mass shootings were too rare in Australia for their absence after the buyback program to be clear evidence of progress. And in both Australia and Britain, the gun restrictions had an ambiguous effect on other gun-related crimes or deaths. By the time we published our project, I didn’t believe in many of the interventions I’d heard politicians tout. I was still anti-gun, at least from the point of view of most gun owners, and I don’t want a gun in my home, as I think the risk outweighs the benefits. But I can’t endorse policies whose only selling point is that gun owners hate them.
What researchers are finding is that societal issues such as mental illness, suicide, gang violence, and domestic violence are all important factors that drive gun violence. Prohibiting certain types of guns doesn’t really address these issues.
While it is right to question why American kids are killing each other, fewer American kids killing each other now than 25 years ago.
Even a small number of school shootings is unacceptable. The fly in the ointment is when the multi-decade trend is downward, assuming the country is in crisis may not be a practical approach.
Instead of focusing on simple-minded approach like a government prohibition on guns, maybe a renewed focus on what we have done right, what we have done over the last few years that has led to a decline in gun-related deaths, might be a more productive approach.
And, when are going to start locking the school doors? One way in, one way out…it’s a start.