Ultimately we have to reconcile two contradictory facts.
Claim: Availability of firearms has a causal link to violence.
Fact: We live in the safest time in the history of the United States.
Our gun death rate has fallen steadily since the 1980s-1990s.
The AR-15 is the most popular rifle in the United States. Rifles of all types, not just semi-auto rifles like the AR-15, will kill around 250-300 people this year in our country of 350 million people. This figure includes people killed by police and killed in self-defense. That's less than the number of people who will be killed by hammers, bats, and other blunt objects. Five times as many people will be killed by knives. The number of people killed by rifles is getting lower every year. This number is actually 30% lower now than it was in 2003, before the 1994-2004 Federal Assault Weapons Ban expired. This suggests that gun violence is a product of the material conditions of society rather than mere access to guns.
Claim: Firearm proliferation in the United States has been on the decline.
Fact: Guns are more widely available now than at any time in American history.
Meanwhile a record number of firearms have been bought and sold. More guns changed hands on Black Friday last year than on any single day in history.
State and local laws regarding carrying handguns have loosened steadily for decades:
In the long term, violent crime in the United States has been in decline since colonial times. The homicide rate has been estimated to be over 30 per 100,000 people in the year 1700, dropping to under 20 by 1800, and to under 10 by 1900. Now it’s at 4.5 per 100,000, the lowest point in history.
You are safer from murder in our society right now than you have ever been.
Obviously mass shootings are categorically different from ordinary gun crime. These events are so statistically rare in the grand scheme of things it makes them hard to study. Also, I don’t write this article in support of, or in opposition to, gun control – or to speak to gun control’s ability to address the issue of mass murder. These are just the facts regarding gun sales and crime.