Following the San Bernardino massacre, the Washington Post has published on its Wonkblog an article with the arresting title: "We’ve had a massive decline in gun violence in the United States. Here’s why."
And just in case you thought this would be a general analysis of gun violence in America unrelated to mass shootings, leave that thought behind. The article explicitly starts off with a tragic picture of the aftermath of the San Bernardino shooting (my screenshot):
This is counter-intuitive and it really muddles up the issue: mass shootings are on the INCREASE in the US and this is a fact nobody should lose sight of. American society as a whole may be less violent than it was 20 or 30 years ago, but it's a helluva more dangerous place to live for the average citizen.
According to this article, there are 5 reasons why gun violence has declined over the past three decades:
1. More police officers on the beat;
2. Police using computers to collect data on crime and to direct their officers' efforts more efficiently;
3. Less booze - Americans drank 21 percent less alcohol in 2000 than in 1980, though consumption has increased since then (by how much the article doesn't say)
4. Less lead - the article reports that: "After the passage of the Clean Air Act in 1970, refiners were required to sell unleaded gasoline. Jessica Reyes, an economist at Amherst College, has argued that the children born after that law took effect breathed in less lead from car exhaust and that their brains were healthier as a result. She has estimated that the removal of lead reduced violent crime by no less than 56 percent. Other researchers are skeptical that lead could have caused such a large decline in U.S. violence, but many agree that the Clean Air Act had some effect on crime."
5. A better economy - here the article wavers somewhat and notes: "The authors of the Brennan Center report conclude that the increase in household income can probably explain about 5 percent to 10 percent of the decline in crime, similar to their estimate for alcohol. Yet economic factors seem more likely to affect rates of property crime than violent crime, and the relationship between the economy and the rate of gun violence in particular isn't clear." Indeed, not clear at all.And no surprise there, considering the ups and downs of the US economy since 1980, not to mention the 2008 Great Recession, the rise in income inequality and the slow collapse of the middle class...
So yes, the concept of a so-called "better economy" is not particularly germane to the argument, and even the article's author has his doubts about this one.
But how about reversing the argument?
Isn't it absolutely extraordinary that there have been more mass shootings in the US than there are days in the year - 355 so far in 2015 - even though there are "more police on the beat", that the "police uses computers", that Americans imbibe "less booze" and breathe "less lead"?
Could it be that too many people in America buy machine guns - war weapons really?
How about following the example of Australia that has simply banned the sale of such weapons? Hey, my American friends, it works!