Murder by Numbers

Facts

This is not an ordinary blog post. It’s a reference post: one that I will post once, reference frequently, and update periodically.

The stats are presented without commentary of any kind; my own observations can be found at the bottom.

U.S. Population, 2019
Source: The Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, via Kaiser Family Foundation

Americans (2019)CountPct
White   191,757,10060.07%
Black      38,872,20012.18%
Hispanic      59,102,90018.51%
Asian      18,007,2005.64%
American Indian/Alaska Native        2,125,7000.67%
Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander            528,2000.17%
Multiple Races        8,856,1002.77%
Total   319,249,300100.00%

FBI Murder Statistics, 2019
Source: FBI Expanded Offense Data, 2019 Crime in the United States

Out of 13,927 murder victims in the United States in 2019:

Victim RaceCountPct
White5,78741.6%
Black or African American7,48453.7%
Other4223.0%
Unknown2341.7%
Victim Ethnicity
Hispanic or Latino2,19315.7%
Not Hispanic or Latino8,88163.8%
Unknown1,80813.0%

Out of 16,245 murder “offenders” in the United States in 2019

Offender RaceCountPct
White4,72829.1%
Black or African American6,42539.6%
Other3402.1%
Unknown4,75229.3%
Offender Ethnicity
Hispanic or Latino1,5319.4%
Not Hispanic or Latino6,10237.6%
Unknown8,55552.7%

The FBI breaks out the 13,927 murders by “Situation“:

Murder “Situation”CountPct
Single victim/single offender7,04750.6%
Single victim/unknown offender or offenders3,53325.4%
Single victim/multiple offenders1,78212.8%
Multiple victims/single offender9606.9%
Multiple victims/multiple offenders2681.9%
Multiple victims/unknown offender or offenders3372.4%

The FBI provides statistics on race and ethnicity (where known) for 6578 of the 7047 cases of single victim / single offender murders (which, as the preceding table shows, represents a little more than half of all murders):

Offender

VictimWhiteBoAAOtherUnknown
White 2,5945665683
BoAA2462,5742363
Other race574013812
Unknown race5138829

The following table expresses each of those values as a percentage of the 6578 murder total: in other words, among all 2019 murders with one victim and one offender, both the victim and offender were white in 39.4% of the cases; in 3.7% of all such cases, the offender was white and the victim was black or African American.

Offender

VictimWhiteBoAAOtherUnknown
White 39.4%8.6%0.9%1.3%
BoAA3.7%39.1%0.3%1.0%
Other race0.9%0.6%2.1%0.2%
Unknown race0.8%0.6%0.1%0.4%

The next table expresses the offenders as a percentage of all offenders for victims of that race: in other words, 78.6% of the murdered whites in this group were murdered by whites; 17.2% of them were murdered by blacks or African Americans; and so on.

Offender

VictimWhiteBoAAOtherUnknown
White 78.6%17.2%1.7%2.5%
BoAA8.5%88.6%0.8%2.2%
Other race23.1%16.2%55.9%4.9%
Unknown race40.5%30.2%6.3%23.0%

Justifiable Homicides

The FBI does not include justifiable homicides in its murder statistics for the simple reason that “justifiable homicide” is not murder.

In 2019, there were 340 justifiable homicides by law enforcement. This category includes every “killing of a felon by a law enforcement officer in the line of duty.” It does not include law enforcement homicides in which the law enforcement officer was found guilty of homicide or murder. Of these 340 justifiable homicides, 334 involved firearms, 2 involved “knives or cutting instruments,” 2 involved “other dangerous weapons,” and 2 involved “personal weapons.”

In 2019, there were 386 justifiable homicides by private citizens. This category includes every “killing of a felon, during the commission of a felony, by a private citizen.” Of these 386 justifiable homicides, 334 involved firearms, 32 involved “knives or cutting instruments,” 8 involved “other dangerous weapons,” and 12 involved “personal weapons.”

Murder Arrests

The FBI reports the following counts of 2019 arrests for murder or non-negligent homicides. According to the FBI, there can be duplicates in these counts: someone arrested for murder more than once in 2019 will be counted more than once in these stats.

Arrests for Murder or Nonnegligent HomicideCountPct
White3,65045.8%
Black or African American4,07851.2%
American Indian or Alaska Native1251.6%
Asian831.0%
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander280.4%

With respect to ethnicity, 20.7% of those arrested for murder were Hispanic or Latino; 79.3% were not.

Observations

Looking at America as a whole in 2019, roughly 60% of Americans were non-Latino white, 19% Latino, 12% black, 3% multiple races, and less than 1% were in other categories.

That the majority (53.7%) of murder victims were black is obviously a problem in a country where only 12% of the population is black.

But this doesn’t appear to be an inter-racial problem: looking at percentages, a smaller percentage (8.5%) of murdered blacks were killed by whites than the percentage (17.2%) of murdered whites killed by blacks.

Not only that, but whites represented only 29.1% of all murderers in 2019, despite being 60% of the population; blacks represented 39.6% of all murderers despite being 12% of the population. Even if every single one of the 29.3% of murderers whose race was unknown turned out to be white, whites would still be (very slightly) underrepresented among murderers, while blacks would still be overrepresented to the tune of about 300%.

In fact, in about 80% of murders with one offender and one victim, they were either both white or both black. In only around 12% of such cases were the victim and murderer, respectively, black and white, or white and black.

Black Americans were indeed murdered at wholly disproportionate numbers relative to their share of the population in 2019, but in the vast majority of cases they were being killed by other black Americans.

It’s also a fact that Black Americans were murdering at wholly disproportionate numbers relative to their share of the population in 2019. In fact, despite there being 80% fewer blacks than whites in America, there were 36% more black murderers than white ones. And whites who were murdered were twice as likely to have been killed by blacks than blacks by whites, at least in cases where there was a single offender and a single victim.

If we look at all 2019 murders where the offender was either black or white, we have 11,153 offenders of whom 58% were black and 42% were white. When we look at murder arrests where the arrested offender was black or white, we have 7728 arrests of whom 47% were black and 53% were white. In other words, in 2019 more murderers were black but fewer murder arrests were of blacks.

The statistics illustrate that black Americans do indeed run a much higher risk of being murdered than white Americans, but they also demonstrate that that’s because more murders are committed by blacks, and most murders are intra- rather than inter-racial.

That’s what the numbers say.

Certainly we have a problem, we have many problems, and every murder of every American of any color or ethnicity is obviously one murder too many, but if we begin with the false premise that the problem is one of whites murdering blacks willy-nilly across the country, it’s a problem we’re never going to solve because that’s a problem that doesn’t exist.

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