The national bloodbath that never happened

20 06 2012

Take desperate individuals trapped by a lack economic opportunity, add in record firearm sales, and — just for the heck of it — set it all against the much-hyped “climate of hate” turning Americans against each other as never before. It’s practically a recipe for a national bloodbath.

And if you search hard enough, you can certainly find parts of the country where that apocalyptic scenario seems to be playing out. Look at Detroit. Fairly or not, the Motor City is used as a national — even international –  example of what happens when society breaks down. It’s the New Wild West, which, as turns out, is much, much worse than the old, not-so-wild West.

But Detroit is the exception, not the rule. Pockets of violence aside, Americans enjoyed a fifth straight year of decreased violence in 2011. Via Hot Air, a report that will disappoint the doomsayers and cheer just about everyone else:

The FBI is expected to report the final 2011 figures around the end of the summer. Assuming those figures match the current estimates, the nation’s murder rate has been cut by about 53 percent and the total violent crime rate has been cut by about 49 percent since 1991, when violent crime hit an all-time high. Stated another way, the nation’s murder rate has fallen to about a 48-year low, and the nation’s total violent crime rate has fallen to about a 41-year low.

Peace and prosperity: now available in an expanded range of calibers

The report comes courtesy of the NRA, so the FBI figures are naturally used to support the claim that more guns mean less crime. It’s a compelling argument, especially since the NRA cites the rise of laws making it easier for citizens to carry and use firearms defensively rather than simply boasting about the overall increase in the rate of gun ownership. But gun ownership and gun-friendly laws can’t tell the entire story of our increasingly civil society.

Once again, Detroit provides us with an interesting counterexample. The city’s spike in justifiable homicides, while a clear demonstration of the benefits of responsible firearm ownership, is not something to be celebrated on its own.

Firearms can stop crime dead in its tracks — literally — but they can only deter crime if would-be criminals feel they have something to lose. Generations of grinding inner city poverty, it seems, can make people pretty nihilistic. That guns need to be used on such a shockingly regular basis reminds us of the daunting challenges facing the city — challenges that guns didn’t create, to be sure, but challenges that guns alone can’t solve.

Still, we can all take some solace in the most recent national crime report. Detroit isn’t a harbinger of a dystopian future — it’s a relic, a step backwards to a more violent time. The rest of the nation can beat sensationalistic prognostications and live in relative peace. There’s no reason we can’t achieve the same thing closer to home.


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