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Long-Term Nonrelationship of Widespread and Increasing Firearm Availability to Homicide in the United States

NCJ Number
Homicide Studies Volume: 4 Issue: 2 Dated: May 2000 Pages: 185-201
Don B. Kates; Daniel D. Polsby
Date Published
May 2000
17 pages
This analysis of the common opinion that widespread availability of firearms is a major cause or even the principal cause of high rates of homicide concludes that the data dating from the mid-1940s do not reveal a long-term correlation between the distribution of firearms in the general population and homicide rates.
Reasonably accurate data on both homicide rates and the acquisition and ownership of firearms are available back to the mid-1940s. Analysis of these data reveals that the two variables do cross occasionally, but they do not do so consistently. Instead, the trend in the period 1973-97 was one of very large increases in firearms accompanied by essentially flat and even diminishing homicide rates. That pattern is the general rule for the period since the end of World War II to the present. Policies based on mistaken notions such as the ones about firearms and murder are likely to be popular in the short run, but these policies may not reduce and may well aggravate the very problems they aim to address. Notes and 50 references (Author abstract modified)