Two new studies: Gun crime has dropped dramatically over last 20 years -- and most Americans have no idea

Behold the power of this fully armed and operational propaganda machine. First, from the Bureau of Justice Statistics:

Firearm-related homicides declined 39 percent and nonfatal firearm crimes declined 69 percent from 1993 to 2011, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. Firearm-related homicides dropped from 18,253 homicides in 1993 to 11,101 in 2011, and nonfatal firearm crimes dropped from 1.5 million victimizations in 1993 to 467,300 in 2011.

For both fatal and nonfatal firearm victimizations, the majority of the decline occurred during the 10-year period from 1993 to 2002. The number of firearm homicides declined from 1993 to 1999, rose through 2006 and then declined through 2011. Nonfatal firearm violence declined from 1993 through 2004 before fluctuating in the mid- to late 2000s…

In 2004 (the most recent year of data available), among state prison inmates who possessed a gun at the time of the offense, fewer than two percent bought their firearm at a flea market or gun show. About 10 percent of state prison inmates said they purchased it from a retail store or pawnshop, 37 percent obtained it from family or friends, and another 40 percent obtained it from an illegal source.

Bear that two percent figure in mind the next time Obama or Biden starts wheezing about the gun-show loophole. Now, from Pew, the kicker:

Compared with 1993, the peak of U.S. gun homicides, the firearm homicide rate was 49% lower in 2010, and there were fewer deaths, even though the nation’s population grew. The victimization rate for other violent crimes with a firearm—assaults, robberies and sex crimes—was 75% lower in 2011 than in 1993. Violent non-fatal crime victimization overall (with or without a firearm) also is down markedly (72%) over two decades…

Despite national attention to the issue of firearm violence, most Americans are unaware that gun crime is lower today than it was two decades ago. According to a new Pew Research Center survey, today 56% of Americans believe gun crime is higher than 20 years ago and only 12% think it is lower.

You can’t appreciate the magnitude of the decline without seeing it in graph form. Click here and make your way through Pew’s interactive table. In virtually every demographic, gun homicides and violent firearm crime are either lower or way, way lower than they were 20 years ago — and this despite the fact that, as Charles Cooke notes, gun laws were liberalized during that period. I remember stern warnings from the media in 2004 that if the assault-weapons ban were allowed to lapse, all the gains that had been made in reducing gun violence in the late 90s and early 00s would disappear. Like I say: Have a look at Pew’s table. In fact, per the BJS numbers above, gun homicides actually rose during the second half of the AWB’s 10-year tenure before declining again a few years after the ban lapsed. After wading through the BJS data, J.D. Tuccille of Reason dug up another interesting data point:

“[M]ilitary-style semiautomatic or fully automatic” firearms, of the sort targeted by Sen. Feinstein at the federal level, and by new laws in Colorado, Connecticut and New York, make up a whopping 3.2 percent of the weapons possessed by federal inmates, and 2 percent of the weapons possessed by state inmates, at the time of their offense.

And yet, per Pew, just 12 percent of the public has any clue about the dramatic decline in gun crime. On the contrary, a clear majority thinks it’s gone up — despite dutiful news reports whenever the FBI releases its crime data, despite endless (and justified) coverage of the “broken windows” theory and NYC’s celebrated turnaround in crime under Giuliani and Bill Bratton. Partly that might be due to a general default assumption among the public that social problems tend to get worse, not better. Society seems to get coarser all the time, ergo there must be more violence. Wrong, although you can understand how that conclusion is drawn. It’s probably also partly due to the saturation coverage of horrendous mass shootings. Columbine, Virginia Tech, Newtown — it feels like gun violence is exploding, especially at schools, even though it’s much reduced nationwide. (Per Tuccille, the BJS data shows fewer homicides at schools annually now than 20 years ago.) And of course, partly the false perception is owing to the sense of crisis/opportunity inculcated by Obama and his media allies after Sandy Hook to push their broader gun-control agenda even though the measures they proposed would have done zip to stop Adam Lanza. If you’re a low-information voter watching Obama’s various pressers over the last five months, why wouldn’t you assume that gun crime is spiralling ever upward? Rhetorically, at least, he’s spent more time on gun control than he has on any other issue — more than unemployment, North Korea and Syria, immigration, you name it. The problem must be getting worse to justify making it his tippy top public priority; otherwise, one might be forced to conclude that he’s demagoging it simply as a handy bludgeon to try to use against the GOP in the midterms. And that can’t be true. Can it?