“How to Lower Murder Rate,” from The Spectator, an insurance industry journal, as reported in The Bisbee Daily Review, Arizona, Dec. 31, 1915
The Spectator, an insurance journal, has made an impressive study of American murder records in the last 10 years. The result isn’t flattering to a country that prides itself on its superior civilization and humanity.
The review covers 30 cities in all sections of the country. The south makes the most unfavorable showing, due doubtless to its large and comparatively irresponsible colored population. Memphis, Tenn., wins the unflattering title of the “most murderous city in the world.” For the decade of 1904-1913, out of every 100,000 residents of Memphis, 64.3 were murdered every year, on an average. Charleston, S.C., comes next in the list, with 32.7 homicides a year per 100,000. Savannah, Atlanta, New Orleans, and Nashville follow close after. Then comes a sudden drip, in Louisville, to 16.6, and the rate sinks to 11.8 for San Francisco, 9.3 for Chicago, 6.1 for Cleveland and New York, 5.3 for Pittsburg, 4 for Buffalo, and a proud minimum of only 2.4 for Milwaukee.
The average yearly murder rate for the southern cities was 18.4; for the Pacific Coast cities, 12.8; for the central cities, 8.6; and for the eastern cities 4.9. Thus in this respect, at least, the East may lay unquestionable claim to higher civilization, in spite of the supposedly deteriorating effect of recent immigration.
The most distressing thing about the situation is that the murder rate in every section seems to be increasing. The figures for the year 1914 are found to be uniformly higher than the average figures for the previous decade. The increase is most marked in the southern and far western states.
The homicide eminence of the nation as a whole is seen in the fact that, for the same population, 100 persons are murdered in the United States to 56 in Italy; 31 in Prussia, and only 13 in England.
What can be done to blot out this shameful record? The Spectator makes a pertinent and practical suggestion. Nearly two-thirds of the murders examined with committed by firearms. The chief reason for the increase of homicidal crimes is given as the inadequacy of laws regulating the carrying of deadly weapons. “The means of murder are entirely too convenient, and the pistol-carrying habit in many sections of the country is an evil of the first importance.”
The way to bring the American murder rate down to a less disgraceful level, then, is to disarm our private citizens and make it impossible for them to buy weapons.
· Bisbee daily review. (Bisbee, Ariz.), 31 Dec. 1915. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>