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The much-discussed spike in homicide rates between 2014 and 2016 is due almost entirely to gun homicides, a Wonkblog analysis of federal homicide data reveals.

The spike was so drastic that in 2016, gun homicides accounted for a greater share of all homicides than at any point in the federal record, which contains more than 80 years of complete data for the United States.

The numbers underscore how the violent-crime problem is, now more than ever, a gun-violence problem. After years of record sales, firearms are more prevalent in society than at any time in recent history. The high number of civilian guns in circulation means more opportunities for guns to be diverted into the hands of people at risk of harming others with them, potentially altering the landscape of American crime.


Handguns shown in 2015 in the gun library at the National Tracing Center of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Martinsburg, W.Va. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)