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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 12:13AM
Way to go "Gung ho" gun toting America. We have a right to these guns even if  we keep shooting ourselves in the foot.
Dec 20, 2012 12:11AM

Once again the Liberal minority beats their chest and tells me what to feel and why I should feel it.  Since when did we take our marching orders by comparison to the activities of the rest of the world?  Last time I checked, we were a free people and the world was littered with dictators, despots, and tyrants. 


The USA should wear this "Number One" with a badge of honor. 


The Liberal Media isn't fooling anybody by proclaiming what the "majority" thinks with their slanted facts and crooked polls. 


The 2nd Ammendment is not a suggestion, it's a Right!


How bout you guys do a little more investigative journalism on "Fast and Furious' and Benghazi.  Oh I forgot, the latest news there is that Hillary can't testify because of a magic concussion.  Maybe she should consult the NFL on dealing with concussions politically and in the public eye.

Dec 20, 2012 12:11AM

What is the agenda of gun manufacturers? To make money!  What is the agenda of the NRA? To push guns for the manufacturers that fund them! 


Let's not confuse the fact that the NRA pushes death, while claiming to be an upright institution!


Let's be clear who pushes the "ALEC" "Stand Your Ground" bills" while supporting the party of guns (*cough*, the GOP)!  


When the Republican governor signed the "Stand your ground bill" in Florida, there was the NRA leader, physically looking over his shoulder, making sure he did not make a spelling error! Was that the NRA's greatest photo op?


Do the gun manufacturers really need a gun lobby, when there are 88.8 guns in the hands of every one hundred people, on average, in America? When there are more gun outlets than MacDonald's Hamburger restaurants in America, is there really a need for the NRA and the hundreds of lobbyists they command?


What is the purpose of a gun?  Hunting for food? Then we should not lead the world in homicide by gun, should we? But we do. Those that claim more guns in our schools or allowed into a bar are no friends of mine!


Can't we all agree that assault weapons and 30 to 100 round clips are un-necessary, if we proclaim they are for hunting wildlife? Would they be necessary if there was a general uprising, and our government has less than ten per cent of the guns our population has in our homes, to defeat them with?


The whole idea of owning guns for killing people is a bad joke!  300,000 people, since this date last year, would not be dead, had it not been for guns taking their lives!


Yet, we have so many who love the NRA, claim to be willing to die for our freedoms, yet promote that which fills our nation with fear and hate and death! Isn't that a hell of an example to make, while claiming to be righteous in the eyes of the lord?


Would Jesus have owned a gun? If our goal on our small planet is to evolve into a peaceful species, should we not set the examples for our future generations now?


Maybe the golden era was when people cried for peace, and sang songs of love, and brotherhood, and acceptance of each other , no matter what nation, or what path led them to America!


Is that day gone now? Will our children take up the banner and set this generation to shame, or carry the banners of bigotry and prejudice into the future, with guns blazing and blood, lots of blood? Is that the example we set? Should it be? 

Dec 20, 2012 12:11AM

Gun control doesn't work but more importantly it is unconstitutional. How dare Diane Feinstein advocate violating my rights because of someone else's crime.


Interesting no one ever clamors for curbs to free speech just because it is abused.

Fact is blaming an inanimate object for the crimes of people is foolishness.  

Dec 20, 2012 12:08AM
Just a bunch of poppycock. People who are going to commit murder will so in some form or another. Guns just happen to be handy. The tragedies we have seen at the schools that have experienced mass murder were simply caused by a mentally unstable person who should have been institutionalized. Of course the ACLU would certainly object to that.
Dec 20, 2012 12:08AM

I like how this article ends, "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." well I'll tell you that if it wasn't for my .45 last year my mom,dad, brother and sister would be dead making it 304,000, after 5 guys at 3:45am broke into their house and luckily I was staying with them during winter break,  I'll bet you anything this number would be cut 1/2 if those 300k had some kind of weapon to defend themselves, see this is so bias because those 5 I shot killed 3 were counted on that 300k figure. Every situation is different this cannot simply be thrown in some kind of figure is like my professor used to say " Those that make figures LIE"

Dec 20, 2012 12:08AM
How many of these gun death can be attributable to police officers opening up on people wielding knifes bottles sticks bricks etc? Lets see the figures after you remove justifiable homicide from the mix. As far as Australia and the UK aren't these "Gun free" zones where only the law is allowed personal possession of fire arms? This article leaves me with more questions than answers.
Dec 20, 2012 12:08AM
Whatever Obama proposes, it will need to be voluntary.  No one is going to give him any money to implement it.  Not Congress, not taxpayers, not the firearms industry, that just leave Santa Claus and he could be a gun lover too, he certainly left many under my tree from the time I was 12.
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