The Tampa Tribune printed an OP-ED piece by Michael Bayer (Special to the Washington Post) on January 12, 2016. The headline of the piece was “Time for U.S. Catholic bishops to speak up on gun violence”. In this column Mr. Bayer urges the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to speak up again on the subject of gun violence in America.
I find it interesting that the Washington Post would publish this piece by Mr. Bayer that references back to 1994 when in December of 2015, one of their journalist, Max Ehrenfreund, published a piece that highlights the reduction in violent crime that has occurred since 1994.
Mr. Bayer cites a 1994 Pastoral Message of the U.S. Catholic Bishops titled “Confronting A Culture of Violence: A Catholic Framework for Action”. The message can be found on the USCCB.org web site. The message was a call to conversion and a framework for action.
In a section titled, “A Culture of Violence”, the Bishops relay statistics of violent crime reports a rate of 161 in 1960 to 758 per 100,000 in 1992. According to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports 1994 to 2013, the violent crime rate has dropped from 714 to 368 per 100,000 while the population went from 260,327,021 to 316,128,839.
For 2014, the latest year available the rate was 366 while the population increased to 318,857,056. The murder rate has dropped from 9 in 1994 to 4.5 in 2014. In these statistics, violent crime is not restricted just to crimes involving firearms.
The message also cites the number of guns increased from 54 million in 1950 to 201 million in 1990. Estimates are 270 million in 2015.
Max Ehrenfreund reported on December 3, 2015 in a Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com) article titled, “We’ve had a massive decline in gun violence in the United States. Here’s why.”
He cites the rate of homicides by firearms in 1993 was 7 and in 2013 that had fallen to 3.6 per 100,000. He provides other statistics of gun violence and concludes the decline in gun violence is part of an overall decline in violent crime from its apex in 1991.
He also states that even as a certain type of mass shooting is apparently becoming more frequent, America has become a much less violent place. He goes on to present five possible explanations; more police officers on the beat, police using computers, less booze, less lead, a better economy.
The U.S. Bishops could claim their call to action in 1994 was a factor. Concealed Carry proponents claim that the number of Citizen carrying concealed has been a factor. The EPA can claim the Clean Air Act in 1970 has been a factor (less lead in the air). Pharmaceutical companies can claim more use of medication mitigating mental disorders. Judges can claim mandatory minimum sentences are a deterrent.
This is a tough case to tie correlation to causation. Anyone promoting a particular agenda related to violent crime and/or crimes involving firearms can go all post hoc ergo propter hos (after this, therefore because of this). Everyone should at least be recognizing that violent crime rates are down from 1990.
The Bishops have done their part. Let them concentrate on Religious liberty, marriage and abortion. What else can be done? Rather than requiring private sellers to get an FFL and consult NICS, let’s get the system of reporting domestic abuse and restraint orders into NICS completed.
The President is fond saying he’ll act by Executive Order if it saves just one life. Well just one case of updating NICS with domestic retraining orders might have saved four. Raymond Lee Fryberg Jr. had a domestic violence protection order filed against him in 2002. Fryberg acquired nine firearms between November 2012 and July 2014. His son killed four classmates at Marysville Pilchuck High School and seriously injured another before killing himself on October 24, 2014. Because of this case, 10 tribes have gained access to NICS. Only 10?
Mr. Fryberg has been sentenced to two years in prison for illegally owning six firearms. He apologized for his son’s actions. The AP report on January 12 by Martha Bellisle doesn’t indicate that he apologized for his own actions in not preventing access to his underage son.
Two years doesn’t sound like appropriate punishment for his negligence when four students died. How does that compare to two Oregon ranchers who accidentally burned 140 acres of BLM land when they were doing a prescribed burn and a back burn on their own property. They were Federally prosecuted under section 844(f) of the Anti-Terrorism Act. Minimum mandatory is 5 years. No one died there. But I digress.