You would think, based on what we read and see in the news media, that guns are becoming more pervasive and gun violence is out of control.
But the reality is that neither is true, and both conservatives or liberals are operating from false perceptions of what the world actually is.
Even here on DKos our "reality-based community" is reacting out of fear rather than facts. Increasingly many diaries here make hyperbolic claims of the world based on fear generated from whatever gory crime story that currently dominates the headlines.
Conservatives see the rise in gun sales and think that means more Americans are buying guns since the Kenyan, Muslim, Marxist is in the White House.
The reality is that gun ownership has been declining for decades. Increasingly Americans don't believe that guns are necessary.
Meanwhile, both conservatives and liberals see the news of these horrific gun crimes and think the world is going to Hell. 56% of Americans
think that the rate of gun crime is getting worse.
The reality is the opposite. The rate of murders by guns has dropped 49%
And even that understates the drop in gun-related violence. The drop in non-fatal gun crime has dropped even more dramatically - 75%.
These are actual facts. This is reality.
These numbers show something that no one around here has dared to mention: We are winning in our fight against gun violence.
And if this is a reality-based community, we should adjust our rhetoric accordingly. To do that we must let go of our fear.
The Bigger Picture
The biggest obstacle to reform is the news media, which exists to hype every crime and scare us all into a frenzy of irrational fear just so they can get higher ratings. Consider these three charts.
That's the public's perception of the violent crime rate.
This translates into a lot of people afraid to go out of their homes and see what the world is really like.
And this is reality.
It isn't just one region of the country, or one type of violent crime. It's everywhere and everything
Since 1993 the murder rate has dropped from 9.5 per 100,000 to 4.7.
Aggravated assaults have dropped from 440.5 per 100,000 to 242.3.
Forcible rapes have dropped from 41.1 per 100,000 to 26.9.
The 35% drop in forcible rapes is likely understated because studies have shown that rape victims have become more willing to report the incidents, yet the fear is that rape culture is getting worse.
In fact, the violent crime rate is about to hit a century low.
This is fairly preliminary data, but Rick Nevin reports that if current trends keep up, we'll end 2013 with the murder rate in America at its lowest rate in over a century.
These numbers also translate over to racial violence, where by almost every measure interracial violence is declining
The public's perception is getting more and more divorced from reality. It's bizarre.
Conservatives will claim that tough-on-crime policies are responsible for this trend. But if that's the case, then why are violent crime rates generally higher in the southern states where there are tougher sentencing laws.
The reality is that this tough-on-crime policy that is divorced from reality has left us with the largest prison population in the world, both in number and in percentage.
I remember how Cold War Warriors used to point out the size of the population and the brutality and torture in Soviet gulags as proof that the Soviet Union wasn't free.
What does it say about America that we put people in prison at the same rate
as at the peak of Stalin's rule?
And as for brutality, 1 in 10 prisoners are raped
As for torture, at any one time around 80,000 prisoners are in solitary confinement
, often for years at a time.
Of course there is a very simple and obvious reason for our enormous federal prison population, and it has nothing to do with violent crime.
Given these horrific results, isn't it long past time that we got over our irrational fears and adopted policies based on reality and compassion?
[Note: I am a gun owner but I recognize the need for better gun control laws. It is not my intention to imply otherwise. I am merely pointing out that the perception of crime in this country has detached from the reality.]
[Update: A couple people have claimed that while the violent crime rate is dropping, the overall number of violent crimes aren't. This is incorrect. Here's a chart that shows otherwise. The decline in the chart isn't as dramatic because the overall increase in the population, but the trend is clear.
11:17 AM PT: This is a comment I made below that I believe applies to this diary:
Even on DKos it doesn't fit into the narrative. We need better gun control laws. We still have too many gun murders.
But its much easier to get people motived if you scream "OMG! There are guns everyone and people are getting mowed down in the streets!"
It's a lot harder to get people motivated by saying, "This is the sane and moral thing to do."
Thus you have people here (and elsewhere) taking the easy method and screaming their fears.
The problem is that when you appeal to people's fears rather than to their reason you get unintended consequences.
In this case you get lack of political motivation to do something about the insane levels of incarceration. You've made a trade-off, and it wasn't a good trade.