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By Stephen Pederson

Facts: How Many Assault Rifle Deaths Are There?

Hands and Feet Kill More People than Assault Rifles – FBI

Vintage Assault Weapon

Facts About Assault Weapons

In recent weeks, the rhetoric and emotion surrounding firearms has been intense.  Horrible tradgedies tend to give rise to emotion and emotional responses come fast – this is especially true when dealing with violent deaths and innocent victims.  But emotion and heart-breaking images aside, we look at the “numbers” to
Photo credit: arker from morguefile.comtruly understand what are the facts when it comes to murder weapons of choice.  For this type of information, we turn to the experts – the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The FBI gathers data on violent crimes in the US.  They track murders, rapes, assaults, property theft, and robberies.  They also track the weapons involved in murders.  The details are surprising.  In 2011, the number of murders in the United States numbered 12,664.  The weapon of choice in these murders included:

  1. Handguns – 6,220 (49.1% of murders)
  2. All others (explosions, poison, strangulation, unstated firearms, etc.) – 2,847 (22.5% of murders)
  3. Knives or cutting instruments – 1,694 (13.4% of murders)
  4. Personal weapons (feet, hands) – 728 (5.8% of murders)
  5. Blunt objects (hammers, clubs, etc.) – 496 (3.9% of murders)
  6. Shotguns – 356 (2.8% of murders)
  7. Rifles (including assault rifles) – 323 (2.6%)

From the data release by the FBI, these relative proportions of weapon of choice have not significantly changed in the last five years (2007 to 2011).

Another aspect of the data beyond the weapons of choice data that the FBI provides are the statistics on violent crime.  For 2011, the relative types of violent crime include:

  1. Aggravated assault – 751,131 incidents (62.4% of violent crimes)
  2. Robbery – 354,396 (29.4% of violent crimes)
  3. Forcible rape – 83,425 (6.9% of violent crimes)
  4. Murders and non-negligent manslaughter (1.2%)

The total violent crimes for 2011 are 1,203,564 crimes in a reported population of the country as 311,591,917.  This is a violent crime rate of 0.39% or about 4 violent crimes for every 1,000 citizens.

Of note, the FBI also tracks the trending rates of violent crimes.  So for the categories of murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault the follow trend has been recorded for the years 1992 to 2011 (20 years):

A graph of violent crimes per capita in the USA - 20 years (1992-2011)

Recorded Violent Crimes in America – FBI source data

This graph shows that violent crimes as recorded by the FBI decreased by 49% since 1992 over the period of 20 years to 2011.  In other words the violent crime rate per capita in the USA has dropped in half in the last 20 years.








To see the source data included in this post, see the links below:

Crime rates in the United States – Federal Bureau of Investigation

Murder rates by weapon – Federal Bureau of Investigation

To read a related article, see the following:

Assault rifles are not involved in many U.S. murders: A look at the data - Market Watch





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