US & Canada

US gun homicides at 20-year low, surveys say

file photo of handguns on display at the table of David Petronis of Mechanicville, New York 26 January 2013
Image caption Senators rejected plans to expand checks at private and online sales

Gun homicides in the United States have fallen sharply since peaking in 1993, two studies have found.

The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics said firearms-related homicides had dropped to 11,101 in 2011 from 18,253 - a reduction of 39%.

Meanwhile, the Pew Research Center found gun homicides fell to 3.6 per 100,000 people in 2010 from 7 in 1993.

The figures were released three weeks after US senators rejected proposals to extend background checks on gun sales.

President Barack Obama has campaigned for tighter firearms laws after 26 people died in a school shooting in Connecticut in December.

Held steady

Both reports found the rate of non-lethal crimes involving guns had also fallen significantly over that period.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics, an office of the justice department, found that non-fatal firearms crimes dropped by 69% from 1.5 million to 467,300 during the period under study.

However, the justice department study also suggested that the percentage of US homicides committed with a firearm had held steady at around 70% between 1993-2011.

Despite the drop, some 56% of Americans believe gun crime is higher than two decades ago and only 12% think it is lower, according to the Pew Reseach Center.

Pew also found that African Americans made up a disproportionate share of gun homicide victims - 55% in 2010, despite accounting for 13% of the overall population.

In 2010, white people were 25% of victims but 65% of the population, while Hispanics were 17% of victims and 16% of the population.