Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Sharp Drop in Firearm Violence but over 2 Decades, 75 ; of Homicides Still Involved Guns

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Sharp Drop in Firearm Violence but over 2 Decades, 75 ; of Homicides Still Involved Guns

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Gun violence has dropped dramatically nationwide over the past two decades, but nearly three-quarters of all homicides are still committed with a firearm, the Justice Department said in a report released Tuesday.

The report, by the department's Bureau of Justice Statistics, painted an encouraging picture of long-term trends at a time of divisive political debate over guns and legislation to regulate them. Firearms-related homicides declined 39 percent between 1993 and 2011, the report said, while nonfatal firearms crimes fell 69 percent during that period.

Yet few Americans are aware of the dramatic drop, and more than half believe that gun crime has risen, a newly released Pew Research Center survey found.

Still, the Justice Department document makes clear that, when people are killed, it is still most likely to be with a gun. In 2011, as in the past two decades, about 70 percent of all homicides were committed with a firearm, and the majority of those firearms were handguns.

The bureau's report, which echoes earlier findings of violent crime reductions from the FBI's Uniform Crime Report, comes amid an intense divide over guns, especially since December's massacre of 20 children and six adults at a school in Newtown, Conn. Newtown thrust gun control atop President Barack Obama's second-term agenda, and the White House pushed hard for a series of gun control measures. But the effort unraveled under pressure from the gun-rights lobby, and every major proposal was rejected on the Senate floor.

The biggest setback for the White House was the defeat of a bipartisan compromise measure to expand background checks for firearms purchases. Gun control proponents have since mobilized to revive the push for stricter gun laws, but gun-rights groups might seize on one finding in Tuesday's Justice Department report to argue against enhanced background checks. …

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