Sociology

Prof Barkan quoted in 10-4-17 Bangor Daily News Editorial

From the Bangor Daily News:

Steve Barkan, professor of sociology with an emphasis on criminology, University of Maine: America has always been a violent country. We began by enslaving and brutalizing African-Americans and killing and torturing Native Americans. The new nation began with revolutionary violence against England. … Lynchings of African-Americans more or less began during Reconstruction and lasted for about 80 years. The homicide rate reached a peak in the mid-19th century before falling for many decades. It rose from the 1960s until the 1990s and has since plummeted, along with violent crime more generally.

What is different today is the number and firepower of firearms. People in early America and the 19th century could be incredibly violent, but no one individual could commit a mass shooting because the firearms available then did not enable anyone to do so.

What gets lost in the very understandable concern about mass shootings like the one in Las Vegas is that far more people die in gun violence from “ordinary” homicides and suicides than from mass shootings. On the average, about 100 Americans die every day from gun violence, about two-thirds of them suicide victims and one-third homicide victims. Based on this average, on the day all the shooting victims in Las Vegas just died, about twice that number died nationwide from other gun violence.

Violence has declined in America, but increased fire power makes shootings more deadly