Press "Enter" to skip to content

10,982 firearm murders in 2017. Down 47% since 1994.

On the first anniversary of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., NPR, “PBS NewsHour” and Marist released a poll exploring views of various approaches to gun ownership in the United States. Many of the findings are what we’ve come to expect: broad support for expanded background checks in the purchasing process; split views by party on the necessity for new restrictions on gun ownership. The extended advocacy of the surviving teenagers in Parkland notwithstanding, opinions on guns remain fairly fixed.

At the end of that poll, though, was an interesting question. The pollsters asked respondents a question about a matter of fact: Did they think that the rate of gun murders in the United States was higher or lower than it had been 25 years ago?

Twenty-five years ago was 1994, the year that President Bill Clinton signed into law a sweeping crime bill targeting violent crime and a ban on assault weapons. It was a response to a surge in violent crime that had occurred over several decades.

This history was probably not immediately at hand for respondents. So how did the poll respondents view gun violence now as opposed to then? Most believed that the rate of gun murders now is higher than it was at that point.

Notably, Democrats were much more likely than Republicans to say that the rate of gun murders was higher now than it was then. This despite President Trump’s focus during the 2016 campaign on the extent of violent crime in U.S. cities.

The responses by type of community — city, suburban, rural — were overall fairly similar, as were responses by education level. There was a fascinating split, though, between suburban men and women. Suburban and small-town women were 29 points more likely to say that the gun murder rate now is higher than it was in 1994.