Monday, May 26, 2014
Murder and Media
By Alan Caruba
Multiple murders by a crazed killer will always generate headlines as they should. The latest occurred on May 23 when a mentally ill young man, Elliot Rodger, killed six and injured thirteen others. Of the six, he stabbed three and used a gun to kill or wound the others. He wasn’t the first to do this and he won’t be the last. These killers of multiple numbers of people all have insanity in common. It’s not about the weapon, it’s about the killer.
In the 1940s when I was growing up, I went to a lot of movies in which killing was part of the stories being told. As television became part of every home in the 1950s, this theme could be seen in many of the shows and movies. Whether it was the good guys, cowboys wearing white hats or police pursuing criminals, both often had to strike down killers.
One can understand why many believe that we live in a society that is a jungle in which we are at great risk of being killed by those we know or by complete strangers, particularly in our large cities. The facts, however, tell another story entirely.
Among the leading causes of death in America, heart disease, according to statistics from 2010, was the primary cause, taking 597,689 lives. It was followed by cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, and accidents. In 2013, there were more than 316 million Americans, but you were more likely to die from old age than diseases and other causes.
Of the list of 16 leading causes of death, homicide was listed as the 15th.
Despite the daily reports of killings and assaults, the reality is that, since the 1990s, crime of all kinds has declined in the United States and current crime rates are approximately the same as in the 1990s.
Based on records maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of crime statistics, defined as four criminal offenses, murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault, the potential of being a victim has been reduced. The U.S. homicide rate, which has declined since 1992 from a rate per 100,000 persons of 9.8 to 4.8 in 2010 is still, however, among the highest in the industrialized world.
The reasons given for the decline in America include the increase of police officers in the 1990s. On September 16, 1994, President Clinton signed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act into law. Under the act, more than $30 billion in federal aid was spent over a six year period to improve state and local law enforcement, prisons, and crime prevention programs. Significantly, the prison population has expanded since the mid-1970s, though not all are incarcerated for violent crimes.
In fact, cities like New York and Philadelphia have been leading the way to a reduction of violent crime with the entire nation on track to have its lowest murder rate in four decades. Chicago, often cited for its murder rate, was a safer city in 2013 though it still leads in the number of murders.
All this is good news, but it is obscured by the daily reports of killings that are a staple of what the media regards as news no matter where you live. Coverage of murder trials, along with the endless shows devoted to fictional presentations about murder leads people to believe that life in our cities and elsewhere is a succession of murders, but the statistics tell us a very different, real story.
In states where concealed carrying of weapons is legal, the murder rate is lower than those that do not permit this. Efforts by the Obama administration to put limits on our Second Amendment right to bear weapons only put us at greater risk. The purchase of billions of ammunition by the administration is a backdoor attempt to reduce our access to ammunition. Demands for increased registration of gun ownership, already a standard law in all our states, represent a liberal effort to convince Americans that guns are a major threat. They are a major deterrent.
Our perception of crime and of murder is the result of the news and entertainment media’s constant depiction of this element of life in America, but it does not reflect reality. This is not likely to change, but one can take comfort in the reality the statistics provide.
There is one significant exception that does not appear on the list of the causes of death in America. If you were a fetus in 2012, you were among an estimated 1.04 million killed. Since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in 1973, more than 50,000,000 babies have been killed.
There’s a word for this. It’s genocide.
© Alan Caruba, 2014