Last year saw an alarming spike in gun violence, with many cities registering year-to-year increases of more than 30%. We were told these numbers reflected the stressors from the Covid-19 Pandemic, which was particularly brutal in underserved, inner-city neighborhoods which is where most gun assault also occur.

            So, this year the Covid virus seems to be getting under control, yet the increase in gun assaults has not only slowed, but in many locations seems to be getting worse. The number of gun homicides may exceed 20,000 by year’s end, which is almost double the average number of annual gun homicides for any year since 1981.

            The numbers on gun violence would be much worse if we also had data covering non-fatal gun assaults. But the CDC has stopped publishing those numbers since they admitted that the possibility for the annual estimates might be off by as much as 30%. The bottom line is that non-fata assaults appear to be roughly three to four times higher, on average, than the fatal assaults. Which means that the total gun assaults for 2021 might probably end up above 90,000 or even more.

            Why is this happening? How do we explain that gun injuries committed by one individual against another have reached numbers that are almost twice as high as they were twenty years ago, when the CDC says there were 17,000 fatal shootings and 41,000 non-fatal gun assaults?

            We are told that there are just too many guns around, maybe 350 million in private hands, maybe more. But the problem with the more guns = more violence argument is that most of these 350 million guns are in the homes of people who never commit any kind of crime. And the other problem with this approach is that most of these 350 million guns, or maybe it’s 400 million, or maybe who knows how many millions, are types of guns which are never used in gun assaults at all.

            Know how many bolt-action hunting rifles have ben manufactured by Remington, Winchester, Browning, Savage, Sears, and other gun makers over the last 50 years? Millions. Know how many guns like this are used when some idiot goes into a convenience store late at night and demands all the cash? None.

            I’m beginning to wonder whether when we think about gun violence that perhaps we should be thinking more about the word ‘violence’ than the word ‘gun.’ Back in 2015, I found myself in a conversation with Clarence Jones, who was Dr. Martin Luther King’s attorney and helped King write the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.

            We met in New York at the time when some early plans were being discussed for how to mark the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s death. So, I asked Clarence at some point how D. King would have felt about the progress in civil rights if he were still alive. And here was his response, which resonates very deeply with me to this day:

            “Martin’s priority wasn’t civil rights. It was non-violence. And if he were alive, he would not be happy because the United States is a much more violent country today.”

            The numbers bear Clarence Jones out. In 1999, according to the CDC, 148,286 Americans died from all violent injuries. The total has increased every, single year since that date, with the 2020 number being 278,345. The per-100K rate of violent deaths has increased from 53.28 to 80.83 over the same period of time.

            The per-100K violent death rate has increased by 65% since 1999, the per-100K gun-violence death rate has increased by 62%. And don’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s all those gun deaths that have pushed the overall violence number up. In 1999, gun deaths accounted for 7.3% of all violent deaths; in 2020 they were 6.9% of all violent deaths. More Americans are getting violently killed every year, but fewer of these deaths are caused by the use of guns.

            Violence is the only threat to the human community that we don’t understand and hence, cannot figure out how to control. We know what to do about hunger. We know what to do about disease. We even know what to do about global warming, although it’s the political will which is lacking, not the scientific understanding of why the polar icecaps continue to shrink.

            Incidentally, in 1993 there were 1,926,017 violent crimes committed, according to the FBI. In 2020, the number was 1,313,105. So, the violent crime rate has declined by more than 30%, but the number of violent deaths keeps going up.

I’m not talking about not understanding all kinds of violence, I’m talking about not understanding the worst and most threatening kind.

Anyone have an idea?