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FBI: Murder in America Up Nearly 10%, at 5-Year High

Remains near historical lows, rifle murders down

Ferguson
Police form a line across West Florissant Ave. during a protest on the one-year anniversary of Michael Brown's death in Ferguson, Mo. / AP
• September 26, 2016 4:16 pm

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Murder rates increased almost 10 percent between 2014 and 2015, according to a FBI report released on Monday.

The FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program's Crime in the United States report shows 13,455 murders were committed last year compared to 12,270 in 2014, an increase of 1,185 or 9.7%. It's also the most murders since 2009 when the FBI reported there were 13,752.

Rates of gun murders saw a similar increase. The FBI reports there were 9,616 murders committed with a firearm in 2015 compared to 8,312 in 2014, an increase of 1,304 or 15.7%. That represents the most gun murders since 2007 when there were 10,129.

However, murder rates remain near historical lows. Since peaking at 24,703 in 1991, murder rates have seen a steady decline and still sit nearly 50% lower than that all-time-high. The same is true of gun murders, which reached 16,305 in 1994.

The rate of murders committed with rifles fell from 2014 to 2015 despite the overall increase in gun murders. Rifles, a category that includes AR-15s and AK-47s, were used in 252 murders. That's the fewest rifle murders ever reported by the FBI. Knives, blunt objects (like clubs and hammers), and personal weapons (such as hands, fists, and feet) were all used more often in murders than AR-15s, AK-47s, and other rifles.

Handguns continued to be used in a majority of gun murders with 6,447 instances. They remained the most likely weapon to be used in justifiable homicides as well with handguns being employed in 68% of cases.

Justifiable homicides fell slightly from 453 in 2014 to 442 last year. All but one case of justifiable homicide saw the victim using a firearm to defend themselves, according to the report.

The FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program is considered one of the most reliable crime reporting operations. Its reports are compiled with data submitted by more than 18,000 different local, federal, and law enforcement agencies from across the country. However, the report is limited in scope because submitting data to the program is voluntary.