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?

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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