A Pew Research Center poll released Tuesday shows that a majority of Americans believe gun crimes increased over the past 20 years, despite a sharp drop in both gun murders and non-fatal gun crimes since 1993.
A majority of poll respondents (56 percent) told Pew that gun crimes have increased during the past 20 years, while 26 percent said gun crimes stayed about the same and just 12 percent correctly said the number of gun crimes went down.
Data released Tuesday by the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics showed that the raw number of gun murders decreased from 18,253 in 1993 to 11,101 in 2011, a 39 percent drop. Non-fatal gun crimes decreased from 1.5 million in 1993 to 467,300 in 2011, a 69 percent decline.
A report accompanying Pew's poll notes the per capita incidence of gun crimes decreased even more dramatically than the raw numbers suggest because the U.S. population grew during the past 20 years.
Between 1993 and 2010 there was a 49 percent drop in the per capita gun-related homicide rate, according to Pew. From 1993 to 2011 there was a 75 percent drop in the rate of per capita victimization by violent crimes involving a firearm, Pew said.
"The gun homicide rate in 2010 was the lowest it had been since [the] CDC began publishing data in 1981," Pew notes. In 2010 there were 11,078 gun homicides in the U.S., while nearly two-thirds of the 31,672 recorded gun deaths - a total of 19,392 - were deemed suicides.
Pew's poll was conducted March 14-17 with 924 adult respondents. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.