Littleton Aside, America Is a Safer Place

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By the numbers, anyway, it's been another wonderful year. The FBI reports that the overall U.S. crime rate dropped in 1998 for the seventh straight year, with sharp drops across all categories. Serious crimes, down 7 percent. Property crimes, down 7 percent. Robberies, down 7 percent. Rapes, down 5 percent. Murders, down 8 percent. Crime dropped in urban areas, in rural areas, in suburban areas. What's a gun-control advocate to do? "More community police on our streets and fewer guns in the hands of criminals have helped make our communities the safest they have been in a generation," President Clinton said in a White House statement Sunday. "But tragic events like the Littleton shooting remind us that our work is far from done."

Indeed, crimes such as the Colorado shootings - the kind that are rare but worry everyone - were way up in Paducah and Springfield and Jonesboro in 1998 and, following Littleton, have skyrocketed in 1999 (if you count the copycats in Canada). Janet Reno credited the nationwide drops to the booming economy, the stabilization of the drug trade, and the fact that the U.S. prison population is at an all-time high. Even the demographics are agreeable: In 1998, there were fewer young men in the U.S. in their peak crime-committing years. All of which gives the average American - and the average late-term president -- more time than ever to worry about gun-control laws and obsess about what kids are watching on TV while Mom and Dad are at work.