Chart of the Day: The Gun Homicide Mystery

Wonkblog has an intriguing chart up today. It shows the percentage of homicides committed by guns over the past century:

Note that this is not the homicide rate. It shows only the relative popularity of using guns to kill people:

  • There’s a big spike in gun popularity around 1920.
  • There’s another big spike around 1970.
  • There’s another big spike around 1990.
  • Finally, there’s a moderate spike starting in 2015.

I find this mysterious. Why do guns bounce up and down so much as the weapon of choice for murdering people? And what took their place in, say, the 1950s? Knives? Is there any other method of killing people that accounts for a big share of homicides?

I can think of possible explanations for each wave of gun violence. Maybe it was mob killings in 1920; a tidal wave of cheap handguns in 1970; crack in 1990; and gang violence in 2015. But those are just guesses based on nothing at all. However, I can’t even think of a wild guess that might explain the general cyclical nature of gun popularity. It seems to go in a roughly 20-year cycle with the exception of 1950.

Anyone have any ideas?

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate