Research

With the focus on “Gun Crime,” what percent of Violent Crimes involve Guns? 8.3%

12 Jul , 2021  

I’ve asked to prioritize gun violence. . . .

Joe Biden, “Remarks by President Biden on Gun Violence Prevention,” The White House Briefing Room, April 8, 2021.

For folks at home, here’s what you need to know: I’ve been at this a long time and there are things we know that work that reduce gun violence and violent crime, and things that we don’t know about. But things we know about: Background checks for purchasing a firearm are important; a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines — no one needs to have a weapon that can fire over 30, 40, 50, even up to 100 rounds unless you think the deer are wearing Kevlar vests or something . . .

Joe Biden, “Remarks by President Biden and Attorney General Garland on Gun Crime Prevention Strategy,” The White House Briefing Room, June 23, 2021.

. . . to hear directly from each of them about reducing violent crime and, particularly, gun violence in our communities. . . .

Joe Biden, “Remarks by President Biden Discussing His Administration’s Comprehensive Strategy to Reduce Gun Crimes,” The White House Briefing Room, July 12, 2021.

Over and over Biden’s April, June, and today in July presentations on crime have focused on gun crime, not violent crime. Indeed, the White House titled all talk this way: “Remarks by President Biden on Gun Violence Prevention,” “Remarks by President Biden and Attorney General Garland on Gun Crime Prevention Strategy,” and “Remarks by President Biden Discussing His Administration’s Comprehensive Strategy to Reduce Gun Crimes.”

In Biden’s three speeches, he mentioned “gun” or “firearm” 148 times. The term weapon, sometimes in connection with “assault weapon,” is used another 21 times. By contrast, the words “crime,” “violence,” or “violent” were mentioned 89 times not directly in context with guns, such as describing “gun violence.” And it is clear that Biden was talking about violence generally, not just murder, as in these three presentations he only mentions the word murder three times.

Biden’s number one solution is background checks on private gun transfers. His second solution is an assault weapons ban.

But the National Crime Victimization Survey, in the latest year that it is available, 2019, show that there were 5,440,680 rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults (Table 1) and 16,425 murders. Firearms were used 440,830 incidents for rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults (Table 25) and 10,258 murders. Adding those up indicates that 8.27% of violent crime incidents involve firearms. It has stayed the same percent for decades. For example, in 2000, it was 8.5% (Table 5) (also using murder data collected here). In 2010, it was 9% (Table 4) (again using murder data collected here).

But if Biden is worried about assault weapons, just 258 of the 17,413 murders in 2016 involved any type of rifle — 1.48%. Overall violent crimes don’t have them broken by type of gun used, but rifles are obviously a very time portion of violent crimes. (In 2019, the percent was 2.2%.)

Everyone wants to go after “rogue gun dealers,” but that isn’t what they are doing. They want to go after dealers who make trivial paperwork mistakes, to drive them out of business with their zero tolerance policy.

For Biden who keeps talking about reducing violent crime, why does he focus on such a small portion of it?

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