After the events of recent days and weeks, people are scared about gun violence in the US. Actually the evening news broadcasts in most American cities cover a whole bunch of violent crime night after night.
I have long argued that this skews people’s view and makes them unreasonably afraid. This is a pastoral care issue in many churches. But fear serves certain political purposes and fits some cultural narratives. So the idea that violent crime is getting worse will most likely not die.
However, for people interested in facts, perhaps it is some comfort to know that things used to be much worse. So here is a link to a FBI spreadsheet that shows a steady and dramatic drop in the rate of violent crime from 1995 to 2014 (the last year for which we have the statistics).
According to the FBI the rate of murder and non negligent homicide per 100,000 people was 8.2 in 1995. It was 4.5 in 2014.
You could still get murdered. But if you think it is getting worse and use this as a sign of an impending apocalypse, you have bought into a false narrative.
Of course there are threats. Gang violence in many of our cities is one that gets on the news all the time. Also violence exported from the Middle East is a worry. People easily misinterpret the demographics about this. Yeah, certain parts of the world are less safe than others. There are parts of some cities I try to stay out of (although it used to be my job to visit hospitals and nursing homes located in some bad parts of Kansas City).
But I know people that some might fear–Ozark rednecks, black teenagers, gays, motorcycle gang members, young Hispanics and people in the Goth culture. My wife’s cancer doctor is from Syria and his first name is Mohammed. The fact that these people are part of my relationship network makes me less fearful.
Are there people who just don’t know people outside their own demographic? Maybe. But I am sort of reclusive, live in a small town in the Mid-West and am in my 60’s. And I still find myself connected to all these diverse people. So I have a hard time imagining how anybody avoids this.
More probably we set apart the people we know from the dangerous people in TV or internet land. We see violence related to certain groups in the media and make generalizations from which we exclude people we actually know.
I don’t know how to change this. It would help, though, if we could roll back the sense of fear that gets promoted intentionally and unintentionally in the media.