The national hysteria over so-called “assault rifles” and their threat to public safety has once again been exposed, thanks to the FBI’s release this week of the Uniform Crime Report for 2017, which shows that rifles of any kind are used in a fraction of homicides across the country.
“After two consecutive years of increases,” the FBI reported, “the estimated number of violent crimes in the nation decreased 0.2 percent in 2017 when compared with 2016 data. Property crimes dropped 3.0 percent, marking the 15th consecutive year the collective estimates for these offenses declined.”
The FBI also said the “estimated number of robbery offenses decreased 4.0 percent, and the estimated number of murder and non-negligent manslaughter offenses decreased 0.7 percent when compared with estimates from 2016.”
But what is especially significant, at a time when semi-automatic modern sporting rifles are under attack, the annual crime report reveals that far fewer people are murdered with rifles of any kind than are slain with knives and other cutting instruments, or are beaten or bludgeoned to death.
Last year, according to FBI data, of the 15,129 reported homicides, 10,982 were committed with firearms. Breaking down that number, only 403 of those slayings were confirmed to have involved rifles of any kind. But 1,591 were killed with knives or other cutting instruments, 467 were murdered with blunt instruments and 692 were reportedly beaten or stomped to death, or perhaps strangled.
The report notes that 3,283 of the gun-related murders were committed with firearms that were not identified, so there may have been a few more killed with rifle shots, if historical patterns apply.
Shotguns of any kind were used in another 264 slayings, the FBI report notes.
What this year’s report unintentionally reveals is that all the rhetoric about “semiautomatic assault rifles” appears to be grossly exaggerated. Handguns are still involved in far more homicides than long guns of any type, but that hasn’t stopped gun prohibitionists from attempting to regulate or completely ban them.
Earlier this year, a proposed outright ban on “assault rifles” was derailed in Oregon, which had only two confirmed slayings with rifles last year. In neighboring Washington, however, a measure is on the November ballot to raise the minimum age for buying or owning a self-loader to 21 years. Initiative 1369 would require “enhanced background checks,” training, annual background checks, “secure storage,” a 10-day waiting period, payment of a $25 fee to retailers for the additional red tape and more.
According to the Washington State Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Association, which has come out in opposition to the measure, I-1639 also creates the new crime of “community endangerment.”
Efforts to regulate or restrict semi-auto rifles have been tried in other states as well, in reaction to such tragedies as Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, Orlando and San Bernardino.