Thursday, September 3, 2015

Homicides Are Up Across The Board. "More Guns" Isn't Working

(UPDATED -- See below)

According to all measures, homicides are increasing in America, and easy access to firearms is the common factor.

This week, the BBC reported that the "U.S. murder rate sees sharp increase in 2015."  From the article:

The latest figures obtained by the New York Times show Milwaukee has seen the biggest rise, with a 76% increase.
It is followed by St Louis, Missouri, which has seen a 60% increase, and Baltimore, Maryland, with a 56% rise. ....
The latest figures show the number of murders in Milwaukee increased from 59 last year to 104 so far in 2015.
In St Louis, it rose from 85 last year to 136 so far this year, and in Baltimore shot up from 138 last year to 215 by the summer of 2015.
In Washington, there have been 105 murders - a 44% increase from last year.
The numbers have also jumped in other cities, including New Orleans, Chicago, Kansas City, Dallas, New York and Philadelphia, though to a lesser extent.
The article only speculated on the cause, wondering about increases in gun ownership, gang warfare, youth violence, or race relations.

Here in Oregon, too, shootings are on the rise, as chronicled daily on the Oregon Shootings Facebook and Twitter pages.  Portland, in particular, has seen an increase, especially for gang shootings, breaking all previous records.  From an article:
On Wednesday, Sgt. Pete Simpson announced the Gang Enforcement Team responded to 121 incidents of gang violence so far this year.
“It’s the highest that we’ve had since we’ve been keeping records,” Gang Enforcement Team Lt. Mike Krantz said.
The overwhelming majority of these incidents involved gunfire, police said. ....
The Tactical Operations Division – which houses the gang unit, Gun Task Force and Metro Gang Task Force – has seized 137 firearms as evidence in criminal cases from 2015.
But it's not just the large cities.  Here in my home town of Eugene, and the neighboring city of Springfield, homicides, most involving shootings, has drastically increased this summer, with 12 dead in just three months.  From an article:
By whatever name, it’s been a season of violent crime in the Eugene-Springfield area — murders, suicides and shootings that have resulted in the deaths of 12 people, including three since Friday.
Eugene averages about three murders in an entire year; Springfield averages about two.

Nine of the deaths to occur this summer season have involved firearms; two involved a knife; Jeremy Ringquist hanged himself.
Five of the homicide victims have been women; four have been males. Three of the 12 dead are killers — all men — who then committed suicide, police said.
The homicide victims range in age from Gardner, the only juvenile victim at age 17, to 59-year-old Kathy Kay Braun, who was stabbed at her home on Berntzen Road in west Eugene in late July. Two accused killers — one who committed suicide and one who didn’t — are in their 70s.
And while the details on the latest killing are not yet known, most of the crimes are related to domestic violence involving either family members, roommates or partners.
The above figures don’t include other serious crimes, including shootings and stabbings, that have occurred over the summer but in which the victim survived.
As with the BBC article, this article can only speculate on the trends that have led to this.

It's enough to lead nine different health organizations to declare that gun injuries are a public health crisis in America.

But I'm not surprised at all.  

One overwhelming commonality to most of these is the weapon used.  According to FBI data from 2011, around 68% of all homicides involve firearms, with around 75% of those using handguns -- far and away exceeding any other weapons in lethality.

It's not a coincidence that shootings are increasing while gun sales are increasing

The NRA narrative is that more guns make us safer.  The NRA's Wayne LaPierre is infamous for stating that "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," and they have been working overtime to remove any and all gun restrictions that keep guns out of the wrong hands, trying to increase concealed and open carry of guns, and trying to get guns into more places and more hands, including in bars, churches, schools, and government buildings -- all the places where sane people know guns shouldn't be.  And the NRA is succeeding in many places.  And the gun manufacturers who bankroll the organization couldn't be happier.

And yet, despite more guns in more places, the criminals aren't running scared.  Instead, shootings are increasing.  Could it be, possibly, that having more guns around is making it easier for unstable people to access them??  Shocking, I know. 

Last year, I showed comparative graphs illustrating the trends.  As gun sales and gun production increase, along with conceal carry permits granted, so, too, do the number of mass shootings and the number of victims of mass shootings.  

We can now add homicides to that list, too.

We've tried things the "NRA way," and it isn't working.  It's time to form a new trajectory for our nation away from gun violence. 

Addendum (9/4/15): An article from The Trace details how gun deaths have increased this summer compared to last summer:

The total numbers, the numbers that matter, are these. Between the start of Memorial Day Weekend and August 28 (the date when the most recent statistics were pulled), an estimated 3,702 people were killed by guns in America. Another 8,153 were wounded. That’s according to preliminary data from the Gun Violence Archive, which tracks incidents of gun violence through media reports and police blotters. And it amounts to 81 more shooting deaths and 959 more gun injuries than during the same period in 2014.  ... 
It was in America’s cities that the spike in gun violence was foreshadowed in late spring, as crime statistics from the first months of the year trickled in. By early June, Chicago, St. Louis and Baltimore had reported a double-digit uptick in firearm injuries and deaths. By July, several more cities had joined their ranks, one by one surpassing the previous year’s violence in half the time. When compared with Los Angeles and New York, which are home to millions, a few dozen more murders may not seem like an epidemic. For cities like Milwaukee and Omaha, with populations under half a million, the toll can be overwhelming.  
In some urban centers, news outlets tracked shootings by the hour, not the day. 
UPDATE (9/16/15):  The number of homicides and shootings continues to break records in my home town of Eugene and neighboring Springfield.  From an article:

Police have responded to 11 homicides in Eugene and Springfield since June.  The death toll is even higher when you factor in the four suspects who took their own lives in apparent murder-suicides. 

Over the past decade, Eugene has averaged about 3 homicides per year; Springfield averaged about 2. Once in the past decade, Springfield Police investigated 4 homicides in a single calendar year.