We hear news reports about shootings and killings in the U.S. all the time. However, an October 2021 study by the Pew Research Center (PRC) put it all in perspective and has shown us just how bad it really is.
According to their report, the year-over-year rate of shootings and killings in the U.S. as of 2020 was the largest since 1905 — and possibly ever.
They base their data on information collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FBI. While the tabulation methods may differ, the results are the same: “both sources point to a sharp rise in the U.S. murder rate during the pandemic year of 2020.”
So, let’s try and understand the data starting with what was going on in 1905 to have such a high murder rate. The answer is nothing: 1905 was the first year state governments began tracking the number of murders, shootings and killings, in their states and sharing it with the federal government.
As to the actual number of murders, the two agencies estimate there were 21,570 murders in 2020. This is up an astounding 29 percent from 2019, when there were 16,669.
Here are some other stats about murders, shootings and killings from the PRC study:
- Most states saw their murder rates go up in 2020, with the most significant percentages in the following states: Montana, +84 percent; South Dakota, +81 percent; Delaware and Kentucky, +61 percent. Higher than average murder rates were also noted in New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, and California.
- As you might suspect, firearms, specifically handguns, were involved in most of the murders, about 77 percent of them.
- Here’s a real eye-opener. The “clearance rate,” indicating how many of these homicides were solved, declined in 2020. In 2019, the clearance rate was 61 percent; in 2020, it went down to 50. This means there were more murders in 2020, but fewer people arrested for them.
- As to why the murder rate jumped so much in 2020, the researchers pointed to the following possible causes:
- The pandemic, because it caused massive disruptions in American life.
- Protests and tensions, especially after the killing of George Floyd.
- More guns and still more guns. Americans went on a buying binge in 2020, buying more guns than in previous years.
OK, that’s all the bad news. Here are some things we should know as well that help put things into perspective:
- Despite the big jump in murders, the U.S. murder rate is still below what it was in the early 1990s. In 2020, there were 7.8 homicides per 100,000 people. In 1991, there were 10 homicides per 100,000 people.
- Americans are far less likely to die from murder than from other causes such as drug overdoses or suicide. The murder rate in 2020, for instance, was 42 percent lower than the suicide rate, which tends to be one of the significant causes of death in the U.S.
- As to how we all feel about the murder rate in this country, 60 percent of Americans now view it as a very serious problem. In June 2021, before people realized how much the murder rate had escalated, only 41 percent viewed it as a serious problem.
These statistics leave us with more questions than answers. Further, it appears we are going in a direction that allows more people to have concealed weapons. My concern is that disagreements that typically could be handled peaceably, without violence, will now be settled with guns.
Further, while there were calls after the George Floyd killing to defund the police, it appears the increased murder rate is making us reconsider that option. Most Americans now believe we need to increase police funding in our local communities, according to the Pew study. While TAL Global is certainly not opposed to social programs that might reduce gun violence, we agree with most Americans — defunding the police is not the way to go.