Part 1 of 2: Are You Ready for a Lethal Encounter?




Recognizing that many of our readers own guns for self-defense, this week Guns & Patriots begins a two-part article about the most common lethal encounter someone might face.

Part One analyzes the most recent FBI Crime Statistics to identify the most common situation precipitating murder. Part Two will suggest means and methods to avoid or mitigate the situation.

It is important to keep sharp the skills of identifying dangerous situations in order to avoid them as they develop. By being alert we can take steps to reduce the risk of being involved in a life and death situation.

What is the most common dangerous situation leading to murder that one might face? Is it the robber – a stranger who uses a weapon to demand cash? Is it a terrorist who shows up on campus with an AK-47? Perhaps it is the burglar who breaks in at night. Certainly all of these situations are dangerous and deserve thoughtful consideration of the proper reaction for the circumstance. Yet, these are uncommon occurrences, which is the most common dangerous situation that should spark our alertness to avoid?

The FBI maintains statistics that are a good place to help identify the most common dangerous circumstances leading to murder. Although this article quotes the 2009 FBI annual report, it is clear in analyzing the data that while the numbers and therefore percentages may vary slightly they remain relatively consistent through the FBI’s five year comparison 2004-2009.

The 2009 annual FBI report on Crime in the United States reports 13,636 murders documented in the United States within the year. The FBI report indicates 8,804 (64.56 percent) have identified circumstances under which the murder occurred. The remaining 4,832 (35.44 percent) lists “Unknown” as the circumstantial causes, therefore they cannot be considered in our analysis.

FBI Crime Statistics indicate 2,020 of those 8,804 identified circumstance murders were committed during the commission of a felony. This means that 22.94 percent of the time an underlying felony is involved leading to the murder such as robbery, burglary, rape, or auto theft to name a few. 

The report indicates that 42.77 percent of the time when a felony is involved in the murder, the felony is robbery. Thus robbery is identified as the most common underlying felony giving rise to murder, and represents 9.64 percent in overall homicides. The next most common felony where a homicide arises involves narcotics/drugs at 5.5 percent and only 1.1 percent of murders are occasioned by burglary. Gambling, arson, prostitution and other felonious activities make up a small percentage, however 460 killings (5.2 percent overall) involved an unspecified felony.

Juvenile gang killings come in at 10.44 percent of all known causes but the FBI includes them separately, not within the 2,020 felony circumstances total.

However, these underlying felonies are not the most common circumstance leading to murder.

If less than ten percent of all murders arise from robbery, and fewer than one-quarter of all murders occur during the commission of some felony, then obviously circumstances other than felonies give rise to murder. When should you be most aware?

The 2009 FBI Crime Statistics Report indicates that of all known causes, arguments are the most common causation of murder, representing 42.5 percent (3,746) of all identified circumstances murders. Robberies, burglaries, drug violence, all felonies combined are less likely to involve you in a life threatening situation than engaging in an argument.

Brawls involving alcohol or narcotics recorded 209 murders or 3 percent of instances within the arguments total. Killings involving money or property arguments were statistically the same, totaling 203 homicides. “Romantic Triangles” at 87 instances is a meager 2.3 percent of the total.

Most of the arguments are classified “Other Arguments,” totaling an incredible 3,334 instances or 48.7 percent of all identified circumstance murders in 2009. These assorted arguments run the gambit from road rage to domestic disputes to sports team fanaticism, almost any basis for disagreement, far too many possibilities to classify. The single common element is the fact an argument precipitated the murder.

Arguing with a stranger is dangerous, as demonstrated by the fact 366 murders out of the 3,334 killings arising from “Other Arguments” are committed by strangers. In fact, there were 60 more murders arising from arguing with a stranger than the 306 people who were killed in robberies by strangers in 2009.

No one would volunteer to be robbed, so why would someone expose themselves to the same risk of fatal injury by arguing with a stranger such as in a road rage encounter?

Take heed for the FBI numbers reveal a closer relationship is even more likely. In 699 documented cases, or 18.66 percent of the time an argument is involved, it is a family member who is the victim. In close to one in six times you may be called upon to defend yourself against an enraged family member. Wives and mothers are the most victimized with 370 instances or 52.9 percent of the argument total when a family member is involved. Husbands and fathers follow next at a distant 120 instances or 17.16 percent of the family argument total. Women are more than three times as likely as men to be the victims in family arguments.

A total of 426 slayings representing 12.77 percent of “Other Arguments” involve boyfriends, girlfriends, neighbors, employees, employers, and others. This is 4.8 percent of the overall total.

Friends or acquaintances are documented as being victims in 1,254 of the 3,334 murders in “Other Arguments” or an impressive 37.6 percent of the total for that category.

Hence, the FBI statistics show it is highly likely the participants of the argument ending in murder are related to one another, intimate with each other, or know each other much moreso than to be killed by a stranger.

The primary question of Part One of this article asks:  “What is the most common dangerous situation leading to murder that one might face?” The remarkable answer according to the FBI crime statistics:

It is arguing with a friend or acquaintance, which at 1,254 murders in 2009 represents a whopping 14.2 percent of the 8,804 known circumstances homicides or roughly one of every seven of all known circumstances leading to murder.

Next week in Part Two, Guns and Patriots will examine suggestions for reducing the volatility of these situations.