America saw a significant decrease in the number of homicides involving rifles, a report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation released on Monday shows.
All methods of murder dropped by 7 percent in 2018, and gun murders fell by 6.7 percent, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. But murders committed specifically with rifles fell by an even greater 23.8 percent.
Additionally, the FBI’s breakdown shows rifles were involved in only 2.8 percent of all murders (297 incidents total). Rifles were used less often to commit murder than knives, fists, and blunt objects. Those findings remained consistent with previous Uniform Crime Reports showing rifles were used in relatively few murders each year.
The FBI lumps all rifles together into a single category and does not break down how many murders were committed with any particular model of rifle. That means AR-15s and AK-47s are included in the overall number of rifle murders.
The report comes at a time when gun control activists and Democrats have ramped up their gun control efforts targeting AR-15s and AK-47s over their use in several high-profile killings. A Washington Free Beacon analysis from earlier this year found every Democrat running in the presidential primary supports banning new sales of so-called assault weapons, which include AR-15s and similar rifles. H.R. 1296, the Assault Weapons Ban of 2019, currently has 210 Democrat cosponsors and 1 Republican cosponsor in the House of Representatives.
Some Democrats have also called for a scheme to confiscate those rifles.
"Hell yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47," former congressman Beto O’Rourke said at the most recent Democratic debate. "We're not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore."
Senators Cory Booker (D., N.J.) and Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) have both expressed support for O’Rourke’s confiscation plan.
Gun rights activists have long decried the focus on AR-15s and AK-47s as out of line with their use in crime.
"It is important to note that last year, according to the new FBI data, only 297 murders are known to have been committed with rifles of any kind," Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, said in a statement. "Yet Democrats including all of those now running for president want to ban modern semiautomatic sporting rifles, which they repeatedly mischaracterize as ‘weapons of war.’"
Gottlieb further pointed to the popularity of AR-15s and AK-47s—the industry estimates more than 16 million are owned by civilians—and their relatively infrequent use in crime as evidence the rifles should not be banned.
"Millions of honest citizens own such firearms and they have harmed nobody," he said.