The Slatest

With Violent Crime at 36-Year Low, More Americans Than Ever Say Guns Make Homes Safer

Fewer violent crimes were committed last year than in any year since 1978; above, Elizabeth Taylor and Andy Warhol in 1978.

Photo by AFP/Getty Images

Here are two recent news items.

1) Per the FBI, there were fewer violent crimes in the United States last year than in any year since 1978. From Reuters:

All types of violent crimes were lower, with murder and non-negligent manslaughter off 4.4 percent to 14,196, the lowest figure since 1968. Rape was down 6.3 percent and robbery fell 2.8 percent, the Federal Bureau of Investigation data showed.

(This thorough Wall Street Journal article discusses the many potential explanations for why crime continues to fall in the United States even when the economy does poorly.)

2) Per Gallup, the number of Americans who believe having a gun makes one’s home safer has nearly doubled since the polling group began collecting opinions on the subject in the year 2000.

Between 2000 and 2006, less than half of Americans believed having a gun at home makes it safer – but since then, this percentage has significantly increased to a majority.

(The U.S.’s long-term drop in crime was already well underway in 2000, for what it’s worth.)

I don’t really know how to make heads or tails of these two developments coinciding. Americans becoming more amenable to having guns at home for safety reasons would seem to imply they are becoming more afraid of crime. But Americans aren’t actually keeping guns in their homes at a higher rate:


So the idea—but not the practice—of keeping a gun at home has gained more appeal over the last decade or so even as the actual likelihood of needing to use a gun to defend oneself against a violent crime has fallen.

In summary: ???