A pair of blockbuster reports showing that firearm-related homicides have plummeted over the past 20 years, during the same period that gun ownership has climbed, sent anti-gunners reeling until they could find ways to spin the story.

Ironically, the reports were released two days after the National Rifle Association’s record-breaking annual convention in Houston.

The reports came from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) and Pew Research Center. The BJS report covered the years from 1993 to 2011. According to the BJS, gun-related homicides declined 39 percent from 1993 to 2011, a drop from 18,235 killings 20 years ago to 11,101 just two years ago. Pew Research discovered that the “number of gun homicides per 100,000 fell from 7 percent in 1993 to 3.6 percent in 2010, a drop of 49 percent.”

During that same period, firearms sales have soared and the number of citizens licensed to carry concealed has more than doubled. All of these factors combined, say gun advocates, put the lie to the entire gun prohibition agenda.

“The BJS data suggests that for almost 20 years, the gun prohibition lobby has been consistently wrong about private gun ownership and its correlation to crime,” said Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. “The Pew report suggests that the public has been essentially hoodwinked into believing otherwise.”

He was referring to a startling revelation in the Pew report that said most Americans are not aware gun-related homicides have declined. They believe just the opposite.

“It’s unclear whether media coverage is driving the misconception that such violence is up,”
the Los Angeles Times reported. “The mass shootings in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo., were among the news stories most closely watched by Americans last year, Pew found. Crime has also been a growing focus for national newscasts and morning network shows in the past five years but has become less common on local television news.”

One other fact that proponents of so-called “assault weapon” bans tried to avoid is that the BJS study “also said that in 2011, about 70 percent of all homicides were committed with a firearm, mainly a handgun.”

Gun rights activists immediately zeroed in on that, suggesting that if the overwhelming majority of murders are committed with handguns, gun prohibitionists focused on banning semi-automatic rifles are targeting the wrong guns. Many in the gun rights community believe that it is an effort to convince Americans that it is okay to ban certain types and classes of firearms, making it easier to ban more types and classes of firearms later.

No sooner had news about the reports started gaining traction than did the anti-gun spin machines crank into action.

A story in the Christian Science Monitor stated, “America is still bleeding from gun violence, make no mistake. Some 12,343 people were killed by guns in 2010, keeping the US at the top of the most violent Western countries. The US also has more guns, per capita, than any other Western country, with at least 310 million and as many as 400 million firearms in circulation.”

However, a check with the FBI Uniform Crime Report revealed that in 2010, there was a total of 12,996 reported homicides and firearms were used in 8,775 of those killings. Gun rights activists will quickly note that nobody is killed “by guns,” but by people misusing guns.

Media Matters’ Tim Johnson insisted that the “conservative media” was all wrong about the reports, and that a decline in homicides does not mean efforts to pass tougher gun laws should be abandoned.

“Members of conservative media are trumpeting a government report indicating that gun homicides have fallen as proof that the need for stronger gun laws is unwarranted,” Johnson writes, “while ignoring multiple factors that could account for the decrease. At the same time, firearm violence continues to be a problem as firearm homicides have fallen less than serious violent crime in general and the rate of gun violence in the United States still far outpaces other high-income nations.”

“But there is no logic to their arguments that data from the reports constitutes evidence against proposals to strengthen gun laws,” Johnson insists. Gun availability has been repeatedly linked to higher incidence of firearm homicides, and firearms remain the driving factor of homicides, with 70 percent of murders involving guns. According to an October 2012 report from BJS, the rate of serious violent crime declined 75 percent between 1993 and 2011, meaning that gun homicides are declining at a slower pace than overall crime.”

But gun rights advocates see this as a smoke-and-mirrors defense.

“If violent crime had gone upward,” Gottlieb fired back, “gun grabbers would exploit the fact as proof that more guns in private hands lead to more violent crime. However, if the gun rights community argued that the BJS data proves increased gun ownership leads to lower violent crime rates, the dominant liberal media would savage the notion. Of course, this is the same anti-gun press that has sensationalized crimes while remaining silent about the actual crime data.

“It is time for the gun control crowd to acknowledge they have been consistently and undeniably wrong,” Gottlieb said, “and admit that their agenda has never been about crime, but about public disarmament. They don’t want to prevent gun crime, they want to prevent gun ownership.”