Thursday, July 11, 2013

Does America Have A Gun Violence Problem, Or Is It Just Certain Cities?

I've discussed at length the arguments concerning gun violence in the United States and comparisons with other countries. I've noted that our overall violent crime rate is much lower than Europe. However, the United States is a large and diverse country. Unfortunately, the pro-criminal crowd wants to address gun violence with a one-size fits all mentality. But gun violence is not an American problem. Rather, it is only a problem in certain metropolitan areas. 

I came across this opinion piece at News With Views the other day that makes the claim that if you were to eliminate just a handful of cities from crime statistics, the U.S. would actually have one of the lowest murder rates in the world. The author writes:
Think about this. The United States of America has the third highest murder rate in the world. But, if you take out three cities: Chicago, IL, Detroit, MI and Washington, DC, the United States has to the fourth lowest murder rate in the world. Those three cities, by the way, have the toughest gun laws in the United States. None of them, however, are the murder capital of the nation. Detroit is number #2. The high crime rate is due to poverty and drug addiction. It's neighbor, Flint, is number #1. New Orleans, LA is number #3, St. Louis, MO is number #4 and Baltimore, MD is number #5. Sixth is Birmingham, AL. Tied for seventh place are Newark, NJ and Oakland, CA. Baton Rouge, LA is eighth. Cleveland, OH is ninth and Memphis, TN is 10th.

The top dozen murder cities (listed above) have one thing in common. And, it's not the social progressive violations of the 2nd Amendment. It's poverty. The poorest cities in the nation have the highest crimes rates.
 The author doesn't cite the sources of his statistics, or how he calculated his results, so I can't speak to their accuracy, but it does make an interesting point. The Atlantic published an article in January of this year that, indirectly, makes the same argument:
While the United States has the highest level of gun ownership per capita in the world, its rate of gun homicides, about three per 100,000 people, is far lower than that of Honduras, the country with the world's highest gun homicide rate (roughly 68 gun murders per 100,000 people). But America's homicide rate varies significantly by city and metro area, as I pointed out here at Cities a few weeks ago.

The map below compares the rate of gun murders in American cities to nations around the world. Building upon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data used in that post, Zara Matheson of the Martin Prosperity Institute compiled additional data from theUnited Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and other sources collated by The Guardian.(While international crime data suffer from significant reporting and comparison issues, homicide data is more reliable. As the Urban Institute's John Roman points out, it is the one type of crime that is "hard to fake" and also most likely to be reported.)
 According to that article, the highest murder rates using firearms is New Orleans, Detroit, Baltimore, Newark, and Miami, although it may be listing these by metro areas as opposed to the cities proper.

I would have to contest one matter--that homicide data is more reliable. I think I had noted at one time that Britain does not count a death as a homicide unless it is proven a homicide in court--an unsolved murder is, thus, not a "murder."

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