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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 19, 2012 10:05PM
I'm not sure how I feel about the issue and am not a gun owner. Some of my family and friends do own though. The one statement that seems wrong to me is the last one..    "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". Certainly a lot of those deaths  would have occurred anyway
Dec 19, 2012 10:04PM

To compare the US to any other nation on earth is pointless.  The US is unique in almost every regard.  We have more diversity than any other nation on the planet in terms of ethnicity, wealth and religion.  Yet we live, work and enjoy life together.  In other nations people are killing each other over these same issues.  We have more immigration issues than any other nation.  Who is beating down the door to get into Japan, Norway or the UK.  We have a poor, lawless country that borders us to south.  Japan, UK and Australia are Islands.  Makes immigration control a littler easier eh?


We are the leaders of the free world and for good reason.  Phycos commiting mass murders or not, we will not give up our guns.  Why?  Because we are FREE people.

Dec 19, 2012 10:04PM
OK gang let's summarize.

Annual Deaths by Guns - 9,125
Annual Deaths by Car Accident - 33,000
Annual Deaths by Medical Error - 200,000

So let's deal with the smallest problem first in order to gain some experience and then we can move on to the more significant problems later.

Dec 19, 2012 10:04PM

While I know that a sounds examination of the stats shows that owning guns is the cause of the problem, I am also jaded enough to know that if a sentence is worded properly, the stats can be twisted to suggest otherwise. We have all seen this happen in the last week.


So forget stats for a moment, and consider this: Why are we just about the only post-industrial democracy to have so many guns (per capita)? Why does essentially the whole civilized world come to one conclusion, and America another? Take your head out of the sand and realize that America is not always right.

Dec 19, 2012 10:02PM
How come all these "shooting" are done in GUN FREE ZONES??????
Dec 19, 2012 10:01PM

This is just another way that will give the government a lot more control over Americans, its exactly what Hitler did.

Dec 19, 2012 10:00PM

Its because of all the gun owners that we will never have a Hitler or Stalin running this country. You will never take the guns away from  all the criminals.


Kennesaw GA has mad it a law to have a gun with ammo in every home for the past 2 decades and crime has plunged since that law was put in place. If you want to stop crime, make everyone carry a gun or concealed weapon.


Look at it this way, you don't see many gun men run in and shoot up a police station. I'm not saying you won't, but how smart would you think that gun man would be? Do you think a robber would mug you if they knew you had a gun. Wake up America.

Dec 19, 2012 10:00PM
It seams to me someone is cheating on there home work and not doing any research. Have you even looked at the number of people killed in Africa?Maybe they don't count because that isn't murder it is ethic cleansing. How about the millions of people killed per year in Mexico,Syria, Lybia and the middle east. If you search for real numbers you will find these country's have 20 or more people killed every week by suicide bombers and mass killings. Now let us look at violent crimes committed against people. Where do we stand in that category? This is more of the liberal media trying to brainwash us into thinking guns are bad. This is straight out of Eric Holders mouth" we need to brainwash the people to think guns are bad" . This is from the same man who supplied guns to the Mexican drug cartel. Don't buy into these lies!
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