Commentary

Why the murder rate is rising — and what we can do about it | John A. Tures

(Photo via Getty Images/Colorado Newsline.)

By John A. Tures

The most frequent request I get for a column is about the crime rate in America. I will explain what we know so far, what’s really behind the murder rate increase, where it is occurring, and what both sides can do about it, if they’re really interested in solving the problem.

Data on the official crime rate for the second half of 2020 won’t be out until later this year, and who knows when documented 2021 crime rate data will be available. But there are preliminary indications that the homicide rate is on the rise, as are explanations for why this is occurring.

The most frequently cited excuses are COVID-19, the lockdowns, and protests associated with George Floyd.  Most fail as a full explanation of the rising homicide rate.

The murder rate jumped by roughly 25 percent in the first six months of 2020, before several of these events began.  Yes, the economy tanked, in early 2020. Negative economic growth was reported for the first quarter (-5) even before the coronavirus fully arrived, and fell to historically low levels (-30) during the second quarter, as measured in changes in real GDP.

But these don’t explain how not only most violent crime indicators fell overall, but also why most property crime indicators fell.

Homicide rates did not spike during the Great Recession.  And the homicide rate is still climbing even as the economy appears to be doing better.

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The vast majority of lockdowns weren’t announced until the end of March and didn’t go into full effect until April of 2020.  Three of the four U.S. regions had violent crime decreases, with the South being the only region to see a violent crime increase, according to FBI data.

George Floyd wasn’t killed until May 25, 2020.  Evidence of what has killed police officers shows that it is not murder of officers by protesters, but by COVID-19.

According to WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh, “COVID-19 was the biggest killer of law enforcement in the United States, accounting for at least 145 line-of-duty deaths, according to preliminary data from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. That’s more than double the number of officers killed by heart attacks, shootings, drownings, car crashes or other causes combined — one of the deadliest years for law enforcement in history.”

And a study of American police departments by the American Police Officers Alliance found 17 percent of the New York City Police Department was sickened by the coronavirus.

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We need to work as hard as we can to get our officers vaccinated, fully funded (something that President Joe Biden has been hit hard for by the far left and far right, despite his long history of supporting having more police officers and more funding for law enforcement), as well as hate crimes protections for law enforcement officers murdered in the line of duty.

Here’s where we have a really big problem. If you think our homicide rate is bad, you should see the firearm death rate.

According to the World Population Review, the greatest firearm death rates () are in Alaska, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Montana, Missouri, New Mexico, Arkansas, and South Carolina.  World Population Review also finds the following states have the lowest firearm death rates: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Hawaii, Connecticut, New Jersey, Minnesota, California, Maine and Washington.

We already know for a fact that the number of mass shootings has skyrocketed since the federal assault weapons ban expired.

Now the firearm death rate has simply caught up with the spree killings, as we’ve also seen a host of states (many with high firearm death rates) make it easier to get access to a gun.

That’s why the U.S. homicide rate is in the neighborhood of Pakistan, Angola, Kenya, Sudan, Argentina, Ukraine, Afghanistan and Yemen, where guns abound.

Our firearm death rate is much higher than that of other developed countries, which also practice a greater degree of gun control. Protecting police officers and people from guns will do better to lower the murder rate, just as the assault weapons ban did in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Opinion contributor John A. Tures is a political science professor at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. His work appears frequently on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page. Readers may email him at  [email protected], and follow him on Twitter @JohnTures2.

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