So, We Don’t Rank First In Gun Violence After All… Or Do We?

Gun Violence

The recent gun debate has sparked an article from that has given gun rights activists some ammunition against the claim that the United States leads the world in gun violence. It’s quite ironic that many Republicans are using this article as a basis for their argument, seeing as during the elections and on most things political they’re quick to dismiss these fact checking organizations, but we’ll let that slide for the time being.  The article states the claim that the United States leads the world in gun violence is a “half truth.”  Which, when you look at the facts, they are 100% accurate in this finding. Here is a direct excerpt from the article about their statistical findings:

Annual homicides from firearms

According to the U.N. figures, the U.S. had 9,146 homicides by firearm in 2009. That year, Colombia and Venezuela both exceeded the U.S. total, with 12,808 and 11,115 firearm deaths, respectively. Three other nations topped the U.S. amount in the most recent year for which data is available: Brazil (34,678 in 2008), Mexico (11,309 in 2010) and Thailand (20,032 in 2000).

So the U.S. ranks high in this category, but not first. Even using the higher U.S. homicide figure of 11,493 in 2010 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cited here), the U.S. still doesn’t rank first internationally.

Annual homicide rate for firearms

Because the U.S. is so big, it’s better to compare the frequency of firearm homicides per capita, usually expressed as firearm homicides per 100,000 in national population.

According to the U.N., the U.S. had 3.0 firearm homicides per 100,000 in population in 2009. But there were 14 other nations that had higher rates in 2009, primarily in Latin America and the Caribbean: Honduras (57.6), Jamaica (47.2), St. Kitts and Nevis (44.4), Venezuela (39.0), Guatemala (38.5), Colombia (28.1), Trinidad & Tobago (27.3), Panama (19.3), Dominican Republic (16.9), Bahamas (15.4), Belize (15.4), Mexico (7.9), Paraguay (7.3) and Nicaragua (5.9). Three other nations had higher rates in 2008: El Salvador (39.9), Brazil (18.1) and Ecuador (12.7).

So yes, the claim that the United States leads the world in gun violence would seem false in this instance.  Well, that is until a rational person looks at the list of these countries.

Quick, someone point out to me one of those countries that you’d put on the same developed category as the United States.

LOOK at these damn countries that are ahead of the United States according to this fact check.  I don’t know of any sane person who would look at this list and say, “Yup, these countries are on the same level as the United States.”

Almost every country on that list is a poor, developing country with a weak social structure. But there they are, just above the United States in gun violence.  This is the right wing’s big “fact checking argument.”  Basically, this breaks down to someone saying, “See, you’re wrong!  Countries like Jamaica and Mexico have FAR worse gun violence than we do!”

It’s just asinine.  This is the argument made by these people–that the United States is better off than the Dominican Republic when it comes to gun violence.

Now here’s the key–take a look at this excerpt from the end of the article:

Where the U.S. does rank high in firearm violence

The main area where the U.S. exceeds the firearm violence of other nations is in comparison to other affluent nations. Using the U.N. data, European nations — even former eastern bloc countries — typically have rates well below 1 per 100,000, or far less than one-third the frequency seen in the U.S. The pattern is similar in other advanced industrialized nations, such as Canada, Taiwan, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

See, when it comes to countries that are actually considered industrialized and modern we not only rank at the top–the race isn’t even close compared to other affluent industrialized nations.

So here’s a rule: If you want to brag about the United States being the most powerful (and “best”) country in the world, we need to start acting like it–on every level.  Your argument can’t be that the United States doesn’t really top the rankings in gun violence just because some small, poor, island chain happens to technically have more violence than we do.

Nobody is talking about taking away your damn guns, what we want is a debate about sensible gun regulations for a modern society.  It’s 2013, not 1776–times have changed.  To pretend we don’t have an issue with guns is foolish and ignorant.  To believe that the answer to gun violence is even MORE guns is just insane.  It would be like trying to cure alcoholism with more alcohol.

Because let’s face it, when your argument is that the United States doesn’t have a gun violence problem because Mexico and El Salvador rank higher (per capita) in gun violence…then you’ve already lost.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.


Facebook comments

  • Dale Eccellente

    NOW, I Understand. The goal is to make America more like such countries as Mexico,Columbia and El Salvador. That could solve a couple of problems. If America becomes just like Mexico, we won’t have to worry so ,much about immigration!

  • Erin

    I’m as Left as the rest of you, but PolitiFact didn’t look hard enough and didn’t apply the data correctly, and you just didn’t look at all.

  • Dr Phrogg

    If you look at gun violence, we are 13th or 14th, depending on the source. This number fails to account for gang activity, which will not change much even if guns were totally banned. The other figure is homicide rate. In that category, the US ranks 138 in the world, finishing below many of the “civilized western nations”. Apparently, the problem is violence, not guns. Do people who should not have them get guns? Yes, because the NICS system is broken. States are not mandated to report court action that would make buying a gun illegal. Nearly 2/3 of the people who should not have guns are not on the list. Fix the system we have before we invent new, costly, and ineffective bureaucracy.

  • Chris

    So here is the rundown of counrtries with lower gun violence and higher population density and prohibited weapons…
    UK: Total Gun Ban, Half a million cameras watching everyone in London alone, a country with “no right to privacy.” A decade after the gun ban the only place with more violent crime per capita in first world nations was Austrailia.
    Germany: Ban on fully automatic, and armour-piercing, incendiary and expanding ammunition. Not really that different than the US.
    Italy: Again pretty similar.
    Denmark: Same deal
    France: Again the same.”Britain has a higher crime rate than any other rich nation except Australia, according to a survey yesterday.”

    Seems like this article just wants to look at the statistics that support the starting premise, just like the article it is refuting. I guess if you can’t beat them…join them in spinning the facts eh?

    Switzerland: Less restrictive.
    Spain: Again same deal as everyone above except the Swiss.
    Greece: Same again.

    • Liz Stewart

      Britain has a higher crime rate? What are you talking about? in 2011 precisely 31 people were shot dead in the entire year in the whole of UK. There is not a total gun ban – if I desperately wanted a shotgun, I could have one – Id have to jump through rather a lot of hoops but I would get there in the end. Is there nothing you republicans wont say to justify your crass stupidity

      • Milicent Fahwara

        If we are going to talk about crass stupidity, maybe we should start by quoting your target correctly. Chris said, “more VIOLENT crime percapita”. He did not say more gun violence. Don’t twist things to distract from the facts. This is the problem on both side – we are so worried about being right and ‘winning’ we ignore any potential truth that does not line up with our pre-formed, rigid ideals. Perfect example right here. Someone else pipes up and says, “US 138th in violence, maybe I dont’ need a weapon to protect myself?” Exactly, because in this country, partially thanks to concealed carry in most places, violence is down overall. Where has it risen in recent years in the US? Chicago and DC . . .hmmmmm

  • DonBi Colorado

    So the US is 138th in homicide rate — a relatively peaceful county. Maybe I don’t need a gun to protect myself.

  • Bear Peterson

    Since a large portion of those gun crimes are the result of drug gangs, just like they were related to alcohol gangs during Prohibition the answer is all too obvious. Take away the drug gang’s reason to exist just like they took away the alcohol gang’s reason to exist when they repealed Prohibition.

    Not every gun owner has them for protection, target shooting is the only sport where the physically handicapped can compete on equal footing with the able-bodied in an Olympic event.

    We really don’t need more gun laws, what we need is enforcement of those already on the books.

  • james.

    “UK: Total Gun Ban”
    Please, would you be kind enough to follow the example of the article, and actually do some research before talking?
    the UK does not have a “total” gun ban, or infact, anything close to such. It is entirely legal to own any firarm except handguns, (except in Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man, where handguns are legal) and semiautomatics over .22 in calibre. That means shotguns are legal, straight-pull rifles are legal, bolt-actions are legal, high-calibre rounds like .50bmg and even .55 Boys are legal.

    Furthermore, the whole issue of violence, I would reccommend you actually learn what constitutes “violent” crime in the wonderfully toppsy-turvy world of british legal classification. Stab someone to death? yep, that’s violent crime, same as the US. Forcible Rape? that too.

    But spit on a street? that’s also violent crime. So’s calling someone a c*nt. So’s stealing a purse. or stealing a car – even if no-one is in the car. stealing a bike is a violent crime. so is stealing something from a house – even if the house is unoccupied. Unlike the US, where only forcible rape is a violent crame, every single sex crime is classed as violent crime in the UK. So, sleep with a hooker and get caught? that’s classed as Violent Crime. Get a restraining order from stalking someone? Violent crime too. Harrass someone in a club and pinch her backside? Violent crime. Flash your c*ck at someone? Guess what, thats violent crime too. Get done for sleeping with a minor? that’s Violent crime. Domestic trouble with a partner? Threatening them is a violent crime. Controlling a partner’s finances to control their actions? that’s a violent crime. Spank a child who misbehaved in town? Violent crime. And while organised sports like boxing and wrestling are legal, technically, giving someone a bruise in S&M falls into the category of “violent crime”
    the UK has a vast number of “violent crimes” every year because the list of actions which are considered to be violent crime for the purposes of record-keeping is about 50 times larger than the list in the US.

    I would suggest you do more research before making such sweeping generalisations.

    ah, and regarding video cameras, a study by Cheshire regional police showed that for the entire region fractionally over nintey-six percent of all CCTV cameras are in private ownership, and government bodies such as the police do not have access to them without warrant. They are there because mr Patel’s corner shop gets a reduction in insurance costs if its covered by CCTV, not some Big Brother sinister government surveillance scheme.

    • Dr. Scott

      .22 caliber is legal. Huh, most AR’s fall under that description. Interesting. They all fire .223 except Ak’s and SKS and some SCAR. The AR 15 is a .223 semi auto, the P98 is a tiny bit smaller even. Gotta love loopholes!

  • Dr. Scott

    Brazil, a poor island nation eh? Hmmm Funny thing is that when I live there, the cities were taller than NEW YORK!!!! Also, 3 homicides per 100,000 compared to 38 or even 14 is not, “just below”, that is millions of miles apart. hmmmm 3 people died here, 38 here, practically the same, right? \WTF! I have also been to a few other countries on your list. How racist and Nationalist of you to assume that these are poor, undeveloped nations just because they are South American. Enjoy your empire, chump. Your whole post makes you look and sound like a tool. I am glad that you cited facts and stats, only to contradict them in a seriously asinine way.

    By the way, I am a gay, gun owning, super liberal, high brow intellectual. Fit that into your demographic standard. Almost all of my super liberal, well educated friends, own guns too. It’s the half witted, skim the surface and blindly follow “progressive trends” people, hiding in the democratic party that are fucking things up here. Stop making me look bad and start trying to focus on something important. Also, I have bought guns in 5 states. All of them required my ID, a background check and a registration. To own assault weapons in many states also requires further fees and stipulations, and owning “any” automatic weapon requires an FFL or class 3 license. No matter what stated you live in! If you are going to write such hypocritical articles, with so many holes as this, go join the damned tea party. You’ll fit in great! Just stop mucking up the image of us liberals. Jerk!

    • SMc

      “gay, gun owning, super liberal, high brow intellectual”…… forgot asshole

  • Wm

    We have a habit of comparing the US to European nations, solely because we view ourselves as being a nation descended from European nations … despite the fact that they are economically and sociologically very different. We live in a nation of very wealthy and very poor living in close proximity to each other, with a recently very stressed middle class. We have inherited a slew of problems from the legacy of slavery and segregation. If one wants to compare our crime or violence statistics to another nation, it is South Africa, not European nations. (Also, US homicide statistics include police shootings and suicides by gun, which, in the US, are high.)

  • suzlizjohnson

    Nice to know that not all US citizens are in denial.

  • sapereaudeprime

    Pretty cogent argument. I think that in all other matters, we wouldn’t want to be compared to the countries that have a higher gun violence per capita rate than we do.

  • jheckler

    The person who wrote this article is a fool and obviously hasn’t studied the statistics or researched the facts in depth. In fact we are very much like those Latin American countries, because 80%+ of gun related homicides in the U.S. occur in inner city ghettos and are the result of gang violence and drug related crime. Almost another 10% are homicides by cop. That means that roughly 9% to 12% of Homicides in any given year, are committed by average Americans across the nation. When those things are considered, our homicide rate goes down to about .3% per 100,000 citizens. Furthermore homicide and violent crime has decreased in recent years, all while there are an estimated 100 million more guns in circulation. If anyone questions these facts I can provide links to evidence and statistical information. Nearly all of the mass shootings in the last 20+ years were in “gun free zones”. The worst part of all, is that it’s been proven by FBI, and U.N. statistics that anti-gun laws don’t work. The factual statistics prove that more guns = less crime. The only ones who obey gun laws are law abiding citizens.
    As Thomas Jefferson said:
    “The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes…. Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”