Asked in a March Pew Research Center survey whether crimes involving guns have increased, held steady or been in remission since twenty years ago, more than half of all respondents said such crimes were on the rise.
Wrong. In 1993 - a year remembered by many of us through a Vaseline-coated lens of nostalgia - the gun-homicide rate in the United States was twice what it is today. The 49 percent drop since then is consistent with a general and steady, if unheralded, drop-off in rates of all violent crimes, as the federal Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics confirms.
Actually, the rate of firearm-related homicides began a rapid ascent in the 1960s, peaked in the early 1990s, and has now returned to that of the early 1960s. (Gun-related suicides have also declined, but not as dramatically.)
These statistics do not bring back to life a single innocent person who has been killed, by guns or otherwise, in the past two decades. But they do provide some perspective in what has been an emotion-charged and too-often fact-challenged debate. As I've previously written, I fear that the debate leading to the Affordable Care Act - now proving famously tough to implement -a few years ago involved some misconceptions concerning the state of health care in the United States. People on both sides of the current debate on gun-control legislation would be well advised to get the facts straight.