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A global view on American gun violence

Firearm ownership and homicides relative to the rest of the world.

By Rich_Maloof Dec 19, 2012 7:50PM

Around the world, there are more than 656,000,000 firearms in the hands of civilians. A fresh batch of eight million small arms are manufactured every year, plus 10 to 15 billion rounds of ammunition. That’s enough to shoot every person in the world — twice.

Photo: Bill Boch/Getty ImagesWhere does the U.S. rank in gun ownership and gun violence relative to other countries of the world?

It depends on how you consider the data: by percentage of guns per capita, by mass killings committed, by gun homicides in nations with comparable economies, or even by unintentional gun deaths.

We are the unrivaled leader in all of those categories.

Here are a few facts to begin gaining some perspective.

There are an estimated 270,000,000 guns held by civilians in the U.S. — more than the number of passenger cars by about 50 million. It may be expected that we’d have more than the other 178 countries surveyed, but we also have by far the highest percentage of guns per capita. The rate? For every 100 people in America there are 88.8 guns. The nearest competitor is Serbia at 58.21 per 100 people, and rates fall off significantly from there.

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Ownership rates can’t be equated with violence, and we are not the most homicidal nation by a long shot. Honduras has only 6.2 guns per 100 people, a small fraction of our own rate, but has the most homicides per gun. In that small Central American republic there are 68.43 killings by gun per 100,000 people, compared to just 2.98 per 100,000 in the U.S.

In fact, underdeveloped nations far surpass wealthier regions in armed civilian violence. Countries in Central America, South America, the Caribbean, the near and middle East, and Southwest Asia far outgun North America, Central Asia, and Europe in percentage of homicides by firearm.

Bing: Obama pledges action on gun violence now

However, relative to other highly developed nations, our record is abysmal. Using statistics from the UN and national sources, PolitiFact calculated that the rate of gun homicide in the U.S. was 15 times the rate of comparable countries like Australia, Japan, Norway, and the UK nations (as of 2009).

Mass shootings are not unique to America. But for civilian massacres outside of wartime, we have more than all other nations combined. Of the 25 worst mass shootings of the past 50 years listed in Time this past July, months before Sandy Hook, 15 occurred in the U.S. Of the other nations, only Finland, with two entries, had more than one shooting ranked.

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Worldwide there are more than 1,000 gun deaths daily. In the U.S., we average 25 every day, or more than one person shot to death every hour.

Back in 2000, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said that the death toll from small arms “dwarfs that of all other weapons systems — and in most years greatly exceeds the toll of the atomic bombs that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

In other words, the carnage wrought by the most devastating weapons of mass destruction ever unleashed on mankind is repeated every year in gun violence. Certainly there’s an argument to be made for responsible firearm ownership. But there’s no debating that if it weren’t for gun violence, nearly 300,000 people who were alive at this time last year would still be breathing.

Primary sources: Geneva Declaration Secretariat, GunPolicy.org, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, PolitiFact Virginia

Photo: Bill Boch/Getty Images

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Dec 20, 2012 9:22PM
I lived in Florida when they passed conceal and Cary laws. No longer was every taxi cab driver a easy target, when they all got permits it was the end of robbing the taxi cab driver,it stopped, I wonder why
Dec 20, 2012 5:32PM

Strange as it may "read" but it is still a fact that GUNS DO NOT KILL PEOPLE... PEOPLE DO!!!


It is and will forever be a dreadful act that was performed by an individual whose reasons will forever be unknown.  YES!  There will be this and that stated by "experts" the world wide, but only the the man behind the trigger knew why and all people alive can only point to the act and pray that it never happen again.


However, let us look again at this situation.  The man was not a collector of weapons and for all that is known not even a hunter.  I look back and can compare that lone individual with the number of individuals that are killed each year by careless driving, "J" walking, Overdosing, etc. etc.... 


Yes, we can remove all weapons from the American Citizen, but can we ever eliminate that "SINGLE" individual that decides that he will use his automobile as a weapon and drives into a large gathering of individuals.


Will we limit all automobiles, even when such may well be used as a weapon?  Yes, hopefully, we have licensed the driver, but what if he or she wasn't licensed or just didn't give a darn and just wanted to make a "name" for them selves by killing a group of people?


Where is the line?  Who will make a weapon from... a tree limb, sling shot, fist fighting.... the list is endless!


The answer... is... not of this world!  As long as we have among us those that would use deadly force in any of the millions of ways, we will have those that kill.


In NO WAY do I advocate any method(s) that would keep us, the American Citizen Free to be anything but FREE!


There will always be "that" individual among the millions that will perform an act(s) that will endanger or kill his fellow man or woman by what ever means are at hand!!!  This fact goes back to the stone age when that weapon would be a stone or club.  Those items are still at hand and research will show that they are and will indeed continue to be the major threat to the rest of us.....  (Discounting Automobiles)

Dec 20, 2012 4:21PM

Unintentional Drowning: Get the Facts (cdc.gov)

Every day, about ten people die from unintentional drowning. Of these, two are children aged 14 or younger. Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States. I think legislation limiting water depth to 2 inches or less in any type pool or making it illegal to cross a stream in a cars if the water depth is more than 3 inches is required since this makes as much sense as passing laws to minimize gun violence.

The current administration and supporters have stated to never let an opportunity or tragedy go to waste. This is an opportunity involving a gun that looks menacing  that cannot be wasted in their view. The government cannot legislate or control every event in daily life. Additional gun legislation in addition to the laws currently in place is not the answer.  

Dec 20, 2012 2:59PM
270 million guns have never killed anyone.
Dec 20, 2012 5:10AM
No matter which side of the debate you're on, and like many Americans I've been on both, you must admit Americans really love their guns and we have a whole lot of them.  Almost one for every person.  And it still hasn't seemed to solve much in many, many ways.

all negative ,negative talk about a GUNS,cars and trucks kill more people than anything you can think of ,but you wont have them tell you that,they wont reveal how many deaths occur drunks,texting talking on a phone .OH here is a good one from the BUFFALO ,NY area when a DOCTOR HIT A GIRL ON A SKATE BOARD DRUNK OUT OF MIND ,BUT THE SYSTEM WORKED FOR HIM ,he got off on all accounts figure that out. ,but say a gun oMg a GUN,i still believe our officials are trying to get guns away from people so they can really control us MORE.we have seen killings by knives going up also but thats ok,its a knife,maybe we as americans should only have a spoon cause a fork can kill you too.LITTLE by little they are trying to take all our rights away or make more laws,upon laws,there are so many laws even a lawyer has a hard time figuring them out.really its all about CONTROL,THEY WANT TO MAKE US PAWNS HAVE NOTHING DO NOTHING.

if they only would use common sense it tells you the MOTHER was the culprit for all of this ,she was complacent about showing her guns when she knew she had a sick kid at home,when the kid tried to get a gun he was told it would take time ,because background check ,so the system was working he did not get one,but leave it to this woman to leave them laying around instead of locked up or a trigger lock.why when the neighborhood had these house to house games or parties ,why did they always skip her home,reason she was the danger ,she was very open to showing off her guns to anybody ,the NEWS even said that. I FEEL FOR ANYONE GETTING KILLED BY A GUN EXCEPT DRUG DEALERS,BUT EVIL IS EVERYWHERE ,SHE HAD A MENTALLY DISTURBED SON LIVING WITH HER ,THINK LADY,THINK PUT YOUR GUNS AWAY.AWAY FROM THESE DISTURBED PEOPLE. CONTROL,CONTROL,CONTROL,THATS IT ALL IN A NUT SHELL,

Dec 20, 2012 4:06AM
Any reason for more control that is all it is......
Dec 20, 2012 3:07AM
In the wake of the most recent school shooting, some are calling for tighter gun control laws, which makes sense to me on many levels--though I think it will little or nothing to actually prevent another mass killing. Still others are calling for actually banning ALL guns. On a purely emotional basis, that may seem like a logical "solution," and it was my initial emotional reaction, too. But it's not the right one.

Granted, if there were no guns, there would be no more shootings (mass or otherwise); but remember... Timothy McVeigh didn't use a gun. I'm not pro or con gun. I could care less, because I choose not to own one. But I am pro-solutions, and to actually SOLVE a problem, one has to understand it and cure the problem at its root. The use of guns in these types of attacks is a "symptom" of the problem. The actual problem exists largely in the psychology of certain individuals, and in the changing psychology and evolving values systems within our society. It's a combination social, values-system, and mental health issue, I think. Don't forget that:

     *  Just a few hours before the Newtown, Conn., massacre, a man STABBED 23 children in a Chinese elementary school--with a KNIFE.

     *  On March 2010, eight children were murdered in China, by a 41-year-old KNIFE-wielding man.

     *  The attacker from the March 2010 murders was executed one month later--just hours before a 33-year-old man injured 16 students and a teacher at a primary school in China--with a KNIFE.

     *  In April 29 2010, 28 school children (mostly four-year-olds) were stabbed alongside two teachers and a security guard in China--with a KNIFE.

     *  On April 30, A man committed suicide after using a HAMMER to attack preschool children in China.

There are probably many other similar incidents around the world, too. My point is that it isn't the guns--it's the people. Taking away guns would definitely stop mass shootings. There is no questioning that, BUT the problems with that "solution" are that:

     1.  The second amendment to our constitution would have to be amended or repealed first (to allow it)--technically possible, but very hard. As a people, we would have to be much more united to make that happen, and our politicians make their living dividing us and pitting us against one another.

     2.  The availability of guns is not REALLY the problem, as evidenced by the fact that guns have ALWAYS been widely available in our country, but this mass-shooting thing is really pretty new. Something has changed in the PEOPLE--in our collective psychology--and thus, the psychopaths are starting to reveal themselves in a NEW and horrifying way (with the guns that were already available).

     3.  Even if guns were completely removed from the equation, then the angry, predatory psychopaths would probably turn to knives or hammers (as they apparently have in China), or explosives (as Timothy McVeigh did in OKC), or chainsaws (as in several movies), or something else--and STILL we would have the exact same problem on our hands--because we didn't choose actually SOLVE it.

So I believe we need to address and solve the actual problem--at the root.  But, in typical fashion, our "brilliant" politicians will spend lots of OUR money, make a boat-load of self-aggrandizing speeches about the obvious and about so-called "sweeping changes" and "solutions," and then do ALL the wrong things so that the problem is STILL not solved. How horrifying will the next one be?

And while the blind politicians are busy making speeches; and taking polls, and doing demographic research, and rallying their bases; and banning "pistol grips" with great resolve... somewhere out there, the next killer is watching, and waiting, and planning...  It's all pretty g*ddamned sad.
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