April 21, 2021 Editor

America’s unique gun violence problem, explained in 16 maps and charts

In the developed world, these levels of gun violence are a uniquely American problem. Here’s why.

WN: I will embed below the video produced. Please view that first, then read the article and charts carefully.

My brother gave me a book years ago claiming studies showed that the more guns in a population, the less crime. While the research was flawed according to other assessments, it may be that potentially looking into the barrel of a gun while doing a robbery could be strong disincentive . . . Possessing one could also be strong incentive to use it in the course of the robbery . . . What is certain: a stalemate is not in the works as any Wild West movie demonstrates . . . One or both or more end up dead.

The amazing article highlighted does not sustain a view that a state of stalemate is achieved by Americans’ possessing 45% of firearms compared to all other countries’ citizenry, though America makes up less than 5% of the world’s population . . . When guns are drawn, there is not a Newtonian equal and opposite reaction that magically creates public safety . . .

Regardless, this article makes it absolutely clear: less firearms, less violent deaths.


After a mass shooting at a FedEx warehouse in Indianapolis on Thursday, Americans are once again confronting the country’s unique relationship with guns.

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America is certainly an exceptional country when it comes to firearms. It’s one of the few countries in which the right to bear arms is constitutionally protected. But the relationship is unique in another crucial way: Among developed nations, the US is far and away the most homicidal — in large part due to the easy access many Americans have to firearms.

These maps and charts show what that violence looks like compared with the rest of the world, why it happens, and why it’s such a tough problem to fix.

Another way of looking at that: Americans make up less than 5 percent of the world’s population, yet they own roughly 45 percent of all the world’s privately held firearms, based on 2018 data from the Small Arms Survey.

In December 2012, a gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and killed 20 children, six adults, and himself. Since then, there have been more than 2,500 mass shootings as of July 2020.

The number comes from the Gun Violence Archive, which hosts a database that has tracked mass shootings since 2013. But since some shootings go unreported, the database is likely missing some, as well as the details of some of the events.

The tracker uses a fairly broad definition of “mass shooting”: It includes not just shootings in which four or more people were murdered, but shootings in which four or more people were shot at all (excluding the shooter).

Even under this broad definition, it’s worth noting that mass shootings make up less than 2 percent of America’s firearm deaths, which totaled nearly 40,000 in 2017 alone.

It would be one thing if the US happened to have more crime than other nations, but the existing data shows that not to be the case. America is only an outlier when it comes to homicides and, specifically, gun violence, based on 2000 data from Jeffrey Swanson at Duke University.

As Zack Beauchamp explained for Vox, a breakthrough analysis in the 1990s by UC Berkeley’s Franklin Zimring and Gordon Hawkins found that the US does not, contrary to the old conventional wisdom, have more crime in general than other Western industrial nations. Instead, the US appears to have more lethal violence — and that’s driven in large part by the prevalence of guns.

“A series of specific comparisons of the death rates from property crime and assault in New York City and London show how enormous differences in death risk can be explained even while general patterns are similar,” Zimring and Hawkins wrote. “A preference for crimes of personal force and the willingness and ability to use guns in robbery make similar levels of property crime 54 times as deadly in New York City as in London.”

This is in many ways intuitive: People of every country get into arguments and fights with friends, family, and peers. But in the US, it’s much more likely that someone will get angry during an argument and be able to pull out a gun and kill someone.

When economist Richard Florida took a look at gun deaths and other social indicators in 2011, he found that higher populations, more stress, more immigrants, and more mental illness didn’t correlate with more gun deaths. But he did find one telling correlation: States with tighter gun control laws have fewer gun-related deaths. (Read more in Florida’s “The Geography of Gun Deaths.”)

This is backed by other research: A 2016 review of 130 studies in 10 countries, published in Epidemiologic Reviews, found that new legal restrictions on owning and purchasing guns tended to be followed by a drop in gun violence — a strong indicator that restricting access to guns can save lives.

When countries reduced access to guns, they saw a drop in the number of firearm suicides. The data above, taken from a 2010 study by Australian researchers, shows that suicides dropped dramatically after the Australian government set up a mandatory gun buyback program that reduced the number of firearms in the country by about one-fifth.

The Australian study found that buying back 3,500 guns per 100,000 people correlated with up to a 50 percent drop in firearm homicides and a 74 percent drop in gun suicides. As Dylan Matthews explained for Vox, the drop in homicides wasn’t statistically significant (in large part because murders in Australia were already so low). But the drop in suicides definitely was — and the results are striking.

Australia is far from alone in these types of results. A study from Israeli researchers found that suicides among Israeli soldiers dropped by 40 percent when the military stopped letting soldiers take their guns home. The change was most pronounced during the weekends.

This data and research have a clear message: States and countries can significantly reduce the number of suicides by restricting access to guns.

Given that states with more guns tend to have more homicides, it isn’t too surprising that, as a 2015 study in the American Journal of Public Health found, states with more guns also have more police die in the line of duty.

Researchers looked at federal data for firearm ownership and homicides of police officers across the US over 15 years. They found that states with more gun ownership had more police killed in homicides: Every 10 percent increase in firearm ownership correlated with 10 additional officers killed in homicides over the 15-year study period.

The findings could help explain why US police officers appear to kill more people than police in other developed countries. For US police officers, the higher rates of guns and gun violence — even against them — in America mean that they not only will encounter more guns and violence, but they can expect to encounter more guns and deadly violence, making them more likely to anticipate and perceive a threat and use deadly force as a result.

Please click on: America’s unique gun violence problem

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Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.