Keeping Crime Risks in Perspective

Understandably, the horrific murders at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, have put many people around the country on edge.

Obviously, we want to do what we reasonably can to protect ourselves and our families from criminal attacks. And we want our government to take seriously its responsibility to protect individual rights, a major aspect of which is protecting people from crime.

However, it is counterproductive to obsess about crime or to make decisions based on irrational fears about crime. So let us put the risks of crime in context:

  • There are nearly 40,000 movie screens in the country, showing movies daily, and the risk of suffering a criminal assault in one is miniscule.
  • Violent crime has declined in recent years (while gun sales have skyrocketed).
  • Of the 2.5 million deaths in 2010, around 118,000 were from unintentional injuries, 38,000 were by suicides, and 16,000 were by homicide. (Note that some homicides are justified.)
  • Centers for Disease Control notes, “Assault (homicide) fell from among the top 15 leading causes of death in 2010, replaced by Pneumonitis [a lung disease] . . . as the 15th leading cause of death.”
  • The same year, over twice as many people died in auto wrecks as died in homicides.

Death by a criminal assault is particularly horrifying. A murder, the ultimate act of injustice, ends a life prematurely and is beyond agonizing for the victim’s loved ones.

Nevertheless, even as we recognize the remote possibility that we or a loved one could be a victim of violent crime, we should treat the scant possibility of criminal assault as we treat other scant but awful possibilities, such as car crashes.

Life in America is still generally good and generally safe. Let’s remember to live it.

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