*Iowa State Daily column by Ian Timberlake*
Sandy Hook, 20 children and seven adults murdered, plus injured. Virginia Tech, 32 students and faculty murdered and 23 injured. Aurora theater, 12 movie patrons murdered and 58 injured. Town Center Mall, two shoppers murdered, plus injured. Binghamton School, 14 murdered, plus injured. Fort Hood, 13 murdered and 30 injured. Boston bombing, four murdered and 298 injured. Between all of the aforementioned violent crimes, over 105 others were killed and over 64 injured due to other random killing sprees.
Undoubtedly, violent crime is on the rise given this death spree toll is only five years running. And with everyone today holding a third eye in their pocket, streaming video, picture, and text at the speed of light, everyone in the world can be a witness and sit shoulder to shoulder with every news anchor in the world.
Au contraire, you might find it interesting that we are at an all time low in violent crime in over 40 years and a massive drop since the mid-1990s according to the FBI’s data collection.
In 1992, the United States incurred over 750 violent crimes per one hundred thousand people with a murder rate of 9.3 per one hundred thousand people. At the end of 2012, our nation had a violent crime rate of 377 per one hundred thousand people. In the last two decades, the rate has only increased between two consecutive years, 2005 and 2006. The murder rate of 2012 is down to 4.6, half that of two decades ago.
Included with the decline of violent crime and murder, we have seen a decline in nearly every other category: rape, robbery, aggravated assault, property crime, burglary, larceny, and motor theft. These drops weren’t marginal either. The drop ranges from 30 percent in the case of burglary, to nearly 65 percent in the case of motor theft in the last two decades.
Impossible for me to marginalize crime statistics as significant as these, it may appear like I am attempting to marginalize the massacres we have experienced recently. In a certain light, I am.
While it would probably be a bad idea to leave me alone in a room with the Boston bombers or the Newtown shooter (if all were still alive), objectively, we need to realize that while things appear to be getting worse, they are actually getting better.
Even if you draw the timeline back a few centuries, on average, crime rates have always been on the decline and societies have continually improved.
Renowned Harvard psychologist, Steven Pinker, said in a Ted Talk you can find online, “In fact, our ancestors were far more violent than we are. Violence has been in decline for long stretches of time, and that today, we are probably living in the most peaceful time in our species history.”
With the advent of modern communication, dramatized reporting, and easy access to traumatizing and gory digital media from around the world, it’s easy to see how the nasty gets emblazoned into the brains of the common and are therefore none the wiser to the increase number of people dying of old age and happiness.
Dramatization of media has even worked its way into the political realm, not so shockingly. It has facilitated the cry of the people to be loud enough that, now, of all times, our government needs to introduce laws of weapon control.
This isn’t an argument about whether weapon laws will be good, bad, or moot; This is an argument about how easy it is for the advent of easy access, instant communication and media drama can suade the people (and thus the government) regardless of the actual statistics and state of society as a whole… but you already knew that didn’t you?
Of course so long as there is murder, violent crime, and the like, we should make every effort as a society to prevent it… even if it’s at an all time low. That’s different than allowing the media and the public lead you to believe your safety is in jeopardy. Only a few minutes after the Boston bombings, the Sandy Hook shooting, and every other massacre, news networks scrolled fear mongering lines such as, “How safe are your children?” and, “Are terrorists taking over America?”.
The answer to these questions are, “As safe as they have ever been”, and, “I’m more afraid of spiders”.
- Violent Crime Rates In The US Continue To Plummet Far Below The Gun-Free UK (stevengoddard.wordpress.com)
- Violent crimes drop in South Carolina (thestate.com)
- Hundreds Share Grief At Statewide Memorials For Those Lost To Violent Crime (baltimore.cbslocal.com)
- Violent, property crimes down across city (cjonline.com)
- ‘Substantial’ fall in violent crime (belfasttelegraph.co.uk)