According to a report released Tuesday by the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics, the number of firearm-related homicides declined 39 percent from 1993 to 2011. Non-fatal firearm crimes dropped 69 percent during the same period.
There were 11,101 firearm-related homicides in 2011, the report said, compared to 18,253 in 1993. The decline was part of a multi-year downward trend.
In 2011, there were 467,300 non-fatal firearm crimes, according to the report, down from 1.5 million such crimes in 1993. The steep decline was also part of a multi-year trend.
The report, which used data provided by the BJS National Crime Victimization Survey and other government agencies, comes amid an intense push to establish new gun laws in the wake of high-profile mass shootings. Republican senators defeated a proposal in April to mandate background checks for all gun sales. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., predicted that gun control measures would be voted on again later this year.
During the time gun-related violence decreased, gun sales appear to have increased. Although a comprehensive tally of year-by-year firearm sales is impossible to determine with precision, FBI statistics for the number of NICS background checks performed suggest an upward trend in gun sales since the late 1990s. Around 9.1 million of the background checks - mandated by a 1993 gun control law and launched in 1998 - were performed in 1999, compared to 16.4 million performed in 2011.
The data released Tuesday showed that a very small fraction of crime victims used a gun to defend themselves. "In 2007-11, about one percent of victims in all nonfatal violent crimes reported using a firearm to defend themselves during the incident," said the press release accompanying the report. "A small number of property crime victims also used a firearm in self-defense—about 0.1 percent of all property victimizations."
The report said that 60 percent of state prison inmates arrested for a gun-related crime obtained their guns legally: 37 percent from family or friends, 10 percent from a retail or pawn shop and just 2 percent from a gun show or flea market.