All three methods of homicide remained stable from 2010 through 2014. However, for the two-year period after that, gun homicides increased 31%, from 11,008 shooting deaths in 2014 to 14,415 in 2016. The two other top methods remained stable between 2014 and 2016.
As a result, the number of gun homicides was about 8 times higher than those involving knives (1,781) and about 30 times higher than those involving suffocation (502) in 2016.
Each of these cities has experienced “fairly notable and large increases in homicides over the period in question,” while “other places have been more flat,” said Webster, who was not involved in the CDC report.
‘Volatile over time and space’
Generally, the abrupt rise in firearm homicides is not particularly surprising. “When you look at homicides committed by means other than firearms, the trends aren’t particularly remarkable,” Webster said. “They are relatively flat, maybe slightly declining.
“What is most volatile over time and space is gun homicides,” he said.
This is not the first time the nation has experienced such a spike, he said, pointing to the “enormous increase in firearm homicide rates that began in the late 1980s, peaked around 1994 and then dropped dramatically back to where they were in the mid-’80s by the end of the ’90s.”
Although Webster said he did not wish to oversimplify what happened during that decade, he said an important component of that surge was the number of youths, particularly those living in urban areas, and the use of crack cocaine.
Gun violence is essentially contagious, he said: “Violence begets violence.”
When there is a shooting or two in a given neighborhood in a short period, what often follows is a retaliation shooting or simply a lot of people feeling nervous who begin to carry guns, he said.
“If more people are carrying guns and they think there are others out there going to kill them … they are going to shoot first and ask questions later,” Webster said.
‘Breakdowns in society’
Webster said the number of civilians who carry guns is another form of gun contagion or basic social influence, especially with changing gun laws.
“Just like we admire people’s clothes or haircuts or whatever — ‘I think I’ll do that’ — the same thing happens with civilian gun carrying,” he said. “We now have 12 states for which you can carry a loaded concealed gun with you or in your vehicle with no license or no vetting, no nothing.” He noted that these laws apply only in cases in which the armed person is not a convicted felon and doesn’t fall into other prohibited categories.
“The available data suggests that as we make it easier and easier for more and more civilians to carry guns wherever they want, we end up with more homicides and other firearm-related crimes,” Webster said. He added that infectious diseases share similar outbreak patterns, going up very rapidly and then coming down very rapidly.
Webster agrees that “Venezuela has a problem; Mexico has a problem; there are a number of places where, even with strong gun control laws, they have rising rates of violence.”
A lot of that violence is connected to “literal breakdowns in society,” he said: “You have cartels who have basically either bought or intimidated many people within the law enforcement criminal justice apparatus. You’ve got a whole other set of conditions that come into play when you think about Venezuela or Mexico or some other places.”
If laws in the US make it easy for cartels, criminal organizations, domestic violence offenders and troubled teens to access guns, violence will increase, Webster believes.
Pratt counters that “more good guys with guns will serve as a deterrent to criminals.”
Webster said that “risk is the bottom line. It’s only guns in the context of risk.”
A different outcome would probably occur if you gave loaded guns to a group of drunken people versus the same group when sober, he said. The same applies if you gave guns to a group of people at a soccer game versus at a figure skating competition or a group of Quakers versus a group of former felons.
Although the majority of people who carry guns may be “perfectly safe and law-abiding people,” there’s always a “subset” who are not, Webster said: “Where there are more guns, more people get shot by them.”
News credit : Cnn