By David Keene
One would get the impression listening to gun control advocates or, indeed, to President Obama and those Democrats vying to succeed him that the United States is in the midst of an epidemic of violence; awash in blood with murderers and mass killers roaming the streets carrying guns they’ve bought at gun shows, over the Internet or from crazed neighbors. In fact, many Americans share this view. A recent Pew poll asked respondents if they believe the U.S. homicide rate has gone up or down over the last twenty years. Fifty-six percent of those polled said it has gone up and only twelve percent believed we are safer today than two decades ago.
The perception here and abroad has little to do with reality and a lot to do with political grandstanding. In fact, over the last twenty years or so the U.S. homicide rate has not just receded, but has been cut in half. The United States does indeed have a higher homicide rate than some industrialized nations in Europe and Japan, but is very, very different in size and complexity to those nations usually cited by those who wish to blame guns for the differences.
Here is one simple fact for those who blame firearms ownership and availability in this country for the murder and violent crime rate that plagues some of our major cities: while crime and violence were being cut in half, gun ownership was doubling.
Back in the nineties, the NRA partnered with law enforcement officials and prosecutors in Richmond, Virginia, which was at that time listed as America’s murder capital. The message was simple. Use a gun to commit a crime and you will get five years in a federal penitentiary with no possibility of a plea bargain. The murder rate dropped 32 percent the first year and another 20 percent the next, but the U.S. attorney who participated in what came to be known as “Project Exile” was criticized by Eric Holder, then Deputy Attorney General, for wasting prosecutorial resources.
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