Ironically, while gun violence in the US has dropped significantly, most Americans think gun violence has gone up.
In under 20 years, since its peak in the 1990s, gun violence has nearly been cut in half. The number of killings due to guns dropped 39% between 1993 and 2011, while gun crimes that weren’t fatal dropped 69%. Even so, guns are still the most popular way to kill someone in the US – two out of three murders in the US used guns (in the same time period). The US still has a higher murder rate than most developed countries and has more guns per capita than any other country.
But when surveyed, only 12% of Americans think gun violence has gone down in the last two decades. 26% said it has stayed the same, and 56% thought it had increased.
There are many explanations of why gun violence has gone down. Some researchers think it is due to the declining popularity of crack cocaine. Others link it to the reduction of lead in gasoline, which is known to increase aggression and impulsive behavior. Others point to surging incarceration rates.
So why do only 12% of Americans think gun crime has gone down, when it has dropped significantly? Who benefits from us being scared?