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Study shows gun violence has plummeted, but still responsible for 70% of homicides

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By The Washington Post
Tuesday, May 7, 2013, 6:33 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Gun violence has dropped dramatically nationwide during the past two decades, yet nearly three-quarters of homicides are committed with a firearm, the Justice Department said in a report released on Tuesday.

The report, by the department's Bureau of Justice Statistics, painted an encouraging picture of long-term trends at a time of divisive political debate over guns and legislation to regulate them. Firearms-related homicides declined 39 percent between 1993 and 2011, the report said, while nonfatal firearms crimes fell 69 percent during that period.

Yet the document made clear that when people are killed, it is still most likely to be with a gun. In 2011, as in the past two decades, about 70 percent of homicides were committed with a firearm, and the majority of those firearms were handguns.

Overall, the Justice Department report said, firearm-related homicides dropped from 18,253 in 1993 to 11,101 in 2011, while nonfatal firearm crimes declined from 1.5 million in 1993 to 467,300 in 2011. The drop extended to schools: Homicides in schools declined from an average of 29 per year in the 1990s to an average of 20 per year in the 2000s.

Although the rate of firearms homicides for blacks declined by 51 percent during the past two decades, that rate was still 14.6 per 100,000 people in 2010, compared with 1.9 for whites.

In 2010, the South had the highest rate of firearms homicides nationwide at 4.4 per 100,000 people, the report said. That compares with 3.4 in the Midwest, 3.0 in the West and 2.8 in the Northeast.

The report, which echoes findings of reductions in violent crime from the FBI's Uniform Crime Report, was issued amid an intense divide over guns, especially since the Dec. 14 massacre of 20 children and six adults in a school in Newtown, Conn.

Newtown thrust gun control to the top of President Obama's second-term agenda, and the White House pushed hard for a series of gun-control measures. But the effort unraveled under pressure from the gun rights lobby, and every major proposal was rejected on the Senate floor.

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