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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 1:30AM
Of the 25 gun deaths in the USA per day, the majority are suicides. I suspect someone bent on killing themselves will find another way if guns are not available. The rest tend to be turf war casulties of drug gangs, killings committed in the act of committing a crime of rape or robbery and crimes of passion such as a man mudering his girlfriend. These crimes are committed with handguns. Fewer people are killed with assault weapons than die falling down their stairs, falling off ladders or slipping in the tub. Meanwhile, 125 people die daily and 300 are brain damaged due to car accidents. If you want to save lives, ban cars, cell phones and alcohol, all luxuries and none in the constitution. Also, if the liberals would give up their drugs, drug violence would end, saving thousands of lives.
Dec 20, 2012 1:30AM
if the guns kill the people, why not put the guns in prison and let the people go, obama and his socialistic agenda, sick of it, and his campagne people want to make money on this terrible shooting. we are a free nation because we do have the 2nd amendment, i believe this as i like many gave part of my life in the military, i have weapons, i like to keep them and if i never use them then i live in the good part of the country., but my granddaughter might need them just to go and kill something to eat the way obama and his administration is killing this country, we will all be in that ole bread line again someday. all because of stupid crap like this, now don't forget, when they cut our rights, their will be alot of people out of work, needing to rob and steal, just 2 days ago in Avon, CT. 2 masked men entered a house, home invasion once again, most likely they were hungry and can't stand not having a job.
Dec 20, 2012 1:29AM

You will never do away with gun deaths until the human race finds a way to settle thier differences without violence. Personally, I do not think humans have that capacity. We have been killing each other with weapons of all kinds since the day we walked upright. It will be the downfall of our species.


I am part of it myself. I am a gun owner and would not hesitate to use my firearms to protect myself and/or my family. I wish it were different.  

Dec 20, 2012 1:28AM

Why is it there is never a shooting at a gun show??? Or a gun store???  Could it be perhaps that is because the bad guys know their life expectancy would be about zero once they even attempted to shoot?


Why are all mass killings related to firearms perpetrated in area's where typically noone is armed?  Could it be because the person looking to kill others knows he will be unopposed?


And the brainiac politicians want to infringe on our God given rights exactly why?


THe police are not there to protect you.  You are responsible to protect you.  At 6'7" 300 - I can do a decent job protecting myself.  At 6'7" 300 with a .45 on my hip I can do a perfect job of protecting me, my house, my office and my family.  Keep your hands off my guns.

Dec 20, 2012 1:28AM
Dec 20, 2012 1:27AM
Anyone wanting to buy a gun should have their head examine before getting
a permit. And continue the examination every year to make sure they are mentally fit .
This method would frustrate anyone from wanting to own a gun weather they are rich or poor.
The NFA can't say they are not allow to buy guns.

Dec 20, 2012 1:27AM
I know this is Non Sequitur, but where is the outrage from the UN over the number of abortions every year?
Dec 20, 2012 1:25AM

i am amused on how this story flips sides and contradicts its self;  the fourth paragraph states  "We are the unrivaled leader in all of those categories"

but in the 8th is says the underdeveloped countries surpass U.S.A. and to compare U.S.A. with australia before 2010 is wrong!  look at australia now since they disarmed their country two years ago!!!  gun crime percentages has gone thru the roof!!! and home invasions where the suspects tie up and assault the home owners and steal all they have while they are tied and beaten!!  the fact is the guns are already out there, if you try disarm the people only the honest will submit,  the criminals will hide their weapons and continue to use them.  I feel the solution is to arm more of the good people with more concealed carry permits and make the penalties for violent crimes WITH weapons used much harsher!! and make life in prison or jail miserable for those locked up so they will not want to go back ever again!! 

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