The New York Daily News ran a provocative President Trump-related cover on Tuesday morning. “AMERICAN CARNAGE,” screamed the headline, alongside a graphic image of what appear to be three dead bodies in Las Vegas. The headline recalled the dark imagery Trump's used in his inaugural address while describing the decay that he argued plagued the United States.
But in the speech, Trump didn't just paint a grim picture about the country's “carnage”; he pledged to end it — immediately. “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now,” he declared.
In fairness, Trump wasn't talking just about violence; he also referenced poverty, the decline of the manufacturing industry and an allegedly shoddy education system. All of that was apparently part of the “carnage.” But so was crime. It wasn't the only time he appeared to promise to magically end the violence almost instantly. Here's a sampling:
- “I’ll be able to make sure that when you walk down the street in your inner city, or wherever you are, you’re not gonna be shot. Your child isn’t gonna be shot.” — August 2016
- “The crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end. Beginning on January 20, 2017, safety will be restored.” — July 2016 at the Republican National Convention
- “This chaos and violence will end, and it will end very, very quickly.” — August 2016
- “A Trump administration will end this long nightmare of violence.” — Multiple speeches in November and December 2016
- “We are going to build a border wall, enforce our laws, and keep our people safe. The chaos, the violence and the crime will come to an end — beginning in January of 2017.” — October 2016
So, has it?
Wonkblog's Christopher Ingraham noted back in July that gun deaths in the United States were up 12 percent compared with last year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which tracks gun deaths based on media reports and law enforcement records. As of today, after the tragedy in Las Vegas, the site records 11,686 gun deaths in 2017 — including 273 via mass shooting. (The archive's definition of “mass shooting” is an incident in which four or more people were shot at.)
That leaves us on track for more than 15,500 gun deaths in 2017, including more than 360 via mass shooting. If this pace continues, the total number of gun deaths would be greater than in each of the past three years, and the number of mass-shooting deaths would be only slightly less than the 383 recorded in 2016. We'd also be on track for an increase in gun injuries, from 30,615 in 2016 to more than 31,500 in 2017.
As for violent crime, it appears that the long downward trend will continue, but with only a modest decline. The Brennan Center for Justice issued a preliminary report for 2017 last month and estimated the violent crime rate in the United States' 30 largest cities would decline by just 0.6 percent this year, “essentially remaining stable.”
Trump's promise to end violent crime was always hyperbolic, and he's no stranger to over-promising and under-delivering. But he did promise to end the scourge of violence almost immediately. That claim was questionable in the first place given crime rates have long been declining (as the charts above show); now it's dubious because Trump hasn't delivered any kind of unusual reduction in his first nine months.
It was another pledge on which Trump set himself up for failure. One-sixth of the way into his presidency — and after an unprecedented amount of mass-shooting “carnage” in Las Vegas — it's clear he is failing to live up to it.