Gun Violence Declining in U.S. While People Think It's Rising, Studies Suggest

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Gun violence has actually plunged in the U.S. since its peak in the middle of the 1990s, according to two new studies of government data.

At the same time, a majority of Americans believe it is on the rise.


Gun crime statistics are comprised of murders, assaults, robberies and other crimes, and the Pew Research Center found that they're down overall.

In less than two decades, the gun murder rate has been nearly cut in half, their research suggested, while other gun crimes fell even more sharply.

This parallels a broader drop in violent crimes committed with or without guns, which peaked during the 1990s and has fallen sharply since then.

The decline has been more modest since the turn of the century, but overall, the number of gun killings dropped 39 percent between 1993 and 2011.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics reported in a separate study released Tuesday that gun crimes that weren’t fatal fell by 69 percent in that time.

However, guns still remain the most common murder weapon in the U.S.

Also notably, despite this measurable drop in gun crime, only 12 percent of Americans surveyed believe gun crime has declined compared with 1993.

Twenty-six percent of those polled said they believed that it had stayed the same in the past two decades, and 56 percent thought it had increased.

It’s unclear whether media coverage is behind that, but crime has become a growing focus of TV news, and several recent events have been extremely high-profile.

From the Connecticut shooting to the Aurora movie theater massacre, the Boston bombing and beyond, it's hard to escape coverage of the worst tragedies.

Also, while the rate of violent crime is down, it's got a long ways to go.

While violence has dropped, the United States still has a higher murder rate than most other developed countries, though not the highest in the world.

Experts have no simple answer for why violent crime is down, attributing it to everything from a diminishing crack cocaine market to surging prison populations.

Some researchers have even linked dropping crime to reduced lead in gasoline, which can cause increased aggression and impulsive behavior.

Victims of gun killings are overwhelmingly male and black, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Compared with other parts of the country, the South had the highest rates of gun violence, including both murders and other violent gun crimes.

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