In the face of such powerful reasons for believing that the death penalty deters murder, opponents often point out that murder rates are lower in abolitionist Europe than in the United States, and lower in some American states without the death penalty than in others with it. But social scientists no longer put much stock in such simple comparisons. All recognize that a myriad of factors affect murder rates. Around the world, there are 42 nations with a murder rate lower than one per 100,000 residents, but another 47 nations with a murder rate higher than 10. No one argues that the better part of these large differences can be explained by how these nations punish murder. Moreover, at least some of the American states that have dropped capital punishment have done so because they did not have much of a murder problem to begin with. For example, when North Dakota abolished the death penalty for all murders in 1973, its murder rate was less than one-tenth of the national average. So it is not surprising that some states without the death penalty today may have lower murder rates than those that have retained it, especially with so many other factors in play.


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