Media Focus On Mass Shootings Shows Disconnect From Actual Crime Trends

Monday, August 5, 2019
By Paul Martin

by Ryan McMaken via The Mises Institute,
Mon, 08/05/2019

Following the recent rash of mass shootings, media outlets have begun to suggest again that murder is a growing reality in the lives of Americans.

For example, the Associated Press ran an article titled “U.S. already has nearly 20 mass killings in 2019,” suggesting the threat of dying in a shooting is becoming an ever-more-likely fate in America. USA Today took it a step further with an article titled “Not an unreasonable fear: Mass shootings such as the one at Gilroy Garlic Festival more numerous, deadly.”

Articles like these combine to send to the message that homicides are a growing part of American life. Moreover, these sorts of articles have had the intended effect.

As the Pew Research Center has noted, [i]n a survey in late 2016, 57% of registered voters said crime in the U.S. had gotten worse since 2008. At least some of these poorly conceived estimates of crime trends can likely be attributed to an ongoing media focus on mass shootings. But as we shall see, mass shootings are but a very small part of larger crime trends. And, the overall trend has been downward for decades.

The homicide rate in America in recent years has been around half of what it was in the early 1990s.

Indeed, for Americans born in the 1970s or after, the last few years have been the least homicidal years of their lives.

It is true that nationwide homicide rates have increased since 2014’s 51-year low, rising from 4.4 homicides per 100,000 people in 2014 to 5.3 per 100,000 in 2017. But, the most recent data we have suggests 2018 may be another down year for homicides.1

According to preliminary crime data from the FBI for 2018, homicides and violent crime were both down in the first half of 2018, compared to the previous year.

Full-year stats for 2018 will become available in September.

From January to June of 2018, there were 6.7 percent fewer murders, and 4.3 percent less violent crime overall.

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