Monday, December 17, 2012

Homicides and Gun Ownership: What International Numbers Tell Us


England’s left-of-center Guardian newspaper has charted gun ownership in over 170 countries. They use data from the Small Arms Survey, which looks at private ownership of guns in various nations. The Guardian then compares firearm ownership to homicide rates—though they only look at homicides with firearms, not the total homicide rate.

Their data shows the United States has 88.8 guns for every 100 people, with a firearm homicide rate by firearm of 2.97 per 100,000 people. The unspoken theory is that reduced ownership of firearms results in fewer murders by firearms—whether it results in more murders by other means is not addressed. (Note: all gun ownership numbers are per 100 people, while homicide rates are per 100,000.)

How does gun ownership correlate with murder by firearms internationally? Argentina is at 3.02, with only 10.2 firearms per 100. The Bahamas has gun ownership of only 5.3, but has 15.37 firearm homicides. Bangladesh has gun ownership below 0.5, yet their death rate by firearms is still 1.1. In Barbados, gun ownership is only 7.8, but the homicide rate is 2.99. In Belize there is only 1 firearm for every ten people, yet the firearm homicide rate is 21.82.

Canada has a relatively high fire ownership rate (30.8), yet a low death-by-firearm rate (0.51). Chile has 10.7 weapons per 100 people, yet a firearm homicide rate of 2.16 per 100,000. Colombia has only 5.9 guns per 100 people, yet the firearm homicide rate is 27.09. Costa Rica has a firearm homicide rate of 4.59, well above the US, but a gun ownership rate of 9.9 per 100, well below the US. Croatia and Cyprus have relatively high gun ownership rates (21.7 and 36.4 respectively), but relatively low firearm homicide rates: 0.39 and 0.46.

Ecuador has an ownership rate of just 1.3, but the firearm homicide rate is more than four times higher than the United States;—12.73. In El Salvador the ownership rate is just 5.8, but the firearm homicide rate is 39.9. Finland and France both have relatively high gun ownership rates by international standards, and very low firearm homicide rates: 0.45 and 0.06. Ditto for Germany with 30.3 firearms per 100, but a firearm homicide rate of 0.19.The same is true for Greece with 22.5, but 0.26 firearm homicides.

New Zealand has a firearm ownership rate of 22.6 per 100, but the homicide rate is only 0.16. In contrast, Nicaragua has only 7.7 guns per 100, yet the firearm homicide rate is 5.92. In Norway, 31.3 weapons per 100 people are in private hands, yet the homicide rate by firearms is just 0.05. Panama has a firearm ownership rate well below the US, 21.7%, but a homicide rate well above the US; 16.18. In Serbia, 37.8 people per 100 have a firearm, but the homicide rate is 0.46. South Africa has only 12.7 guns per 100 people but 17.03 is the firearm homicide rate. Sweden and Switzerland have relatively high gun ownership rates—31.6 and 45.7—and have relatively low firearm homicide rates—0.41 and 0.77.

The Guardian’s report is skewed, because it only looks at homicides by firearms, instead of total homicides from all causes. We see that some nations have very low rates of gun ownership, yet high rates of murder by firearm. Other countries have relatively high rates of gun ownership, yet very low rates of firearm related homicides.

So, how do international homicides rates, from all causes, compare with the presence of guns? I took the numbers the Guardian published, regarding the presence of guns in a society and compared them to homicide rates per country. When I combined the two listsm I had data for 169 nations. 

The 10 nations with the highest number of privately-owned guns averaged 44.14 firearms per 100 population. Their homicide rate per 100,000 population averaged 2.41. The 10 nations with lowest firearm ownership rates had only 0.44 firearms per 100 population but their homicide rate was 8.96. While the top 10 gun-owning countries have ownership rates 10 times higher than the 10 least armed nations, their homicide rate is 4 times lower. Out of the 169 nations surveyed here, the United States is first in gun ownership, but 86 of these nations have homicides rates higher than the United States.

I then looked at the 25 nations with the highest ownership of guns, versus the 25 with the lowest. The top 25 nations had 33.47 weapons per 100 people with a homicide rate of 1.7 per 100,000 people. The 25 least-armed nations had 0.64 guns per 100 people with a homicide rate of 10.45—more than five times as deadly as the 25 nations with the most guns.

Next, I looked at the 50 nations with the highest number of guns in comparison with the 50 with the lowest. The top 50 averaged 24.79 weapons, with a homicide rate of 5.88. In comparison, the 50 least-armed nations averaged 1.01 firearms per 100 with a homicide rate of 12.17—still more than double their more heavily armed counterparts.

I then looked at nations with 40 or more guns per 100 people. There are 4 such countries (US, Switzerland, Finland, and Yemen). They average 58.64 firearms per 100 people, with an average homicide rate of 2.85.

Next I took all nations in 30-39% range of gun ownership. There are 12 such nations with an average ownership rate of 32.59 per 100, and an average homicide rate of just 1.48 per 100,000. A further 11 nations have gun ownership rates between 20-29%; their average homicide rate is 3.39. There are 34 nations with between 10 and 19 guns per 100 people; averaging 14.2 guns per 100 with a homicide rate of 9.9. 108 nations have gun ownership rates below 10 per 100 people, averaging 3.53 firearms per 100, they also average 12.92 homicides per 100,000. 

The trend seems to be that nations with lower homicide rates have a higher proliferation of guns—the reverse of what is often claimed in the media. 

We can also come at this by viewing homicide rates first. The 10 nations with the highest homicide rates in the world, averaging 50.67 per 100,000, have 6.84 guns per 100 people. The ten nations with the lowest homicide rates—just 0.5 per 100,000—have gun rates of 20.39 per 100 people. While the “armed” nations have more than triple the number of privately-held firearms, their homicides rates are just 1/100th those found in the 10 least-armed nations.

The 25 most deadly nations—with an average of 39.88 homicides per 100,000—have a gun proliferation rate 4.89 per 100. The 25 least deadly nations —0.77 per 100,000—have guns rates of 17.43 per 100.

While it would be stupid to say that gun ownership is the only factor influencing homicide rates, it would be even more stupid to claim that the numbers show that gun ownership increases homicides. The evidence does NOT support that when we look at international data.

For the data on the US states see our follow-up article here.



12 comments:

  1. How do they defined gun ownership?

    How many privately owned guns are out there, per 100 inhabitants?
    That doesn't seem like a very useful measure for practical gun availability.

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    Replies
    1. What alternative would you suggest that can be quantified?

      It seems to be useful measure to me.

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    2. If a gun enthusiast expands his private museum from 100 guns to 200 guns, the availability of guns for potential spree killers remains exactly the same. Whoever has access to his stash would have already found more suitable guns there than they could carry before the acquisition of the additional 100 guns.

      If, on the other hand, 100 guns are bought by people living in 100 different households (accessible by many hundreds of people in total) that were previously gun-free, the availability of guns for potential spree killers has increased noticeably in that neighborhood.

      Thus a more useful statistic than "guns per 100 inhabitants" would be "percentage of population living in a household with at least one gun".
      Of course many additional aspects are relevant, but most of those are not really quantifiable.

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    3. First, given that the numbers are calculated the same way in every country the relationship between countries is unaffected, whether or not you think a better method of calculation should have been done. Since, this is about the relationship between countries, the conclusions remain valid, provided the numbers are based on the same facts in each case.

      Second, it is unlikely that the bulk of gun ownership is in the hands of private individuals with hundreds of guns each.

      Third, if you can source those numbers please do, I'd like to see them. I would need them from the nations of the world. We all have to work with the statistics that exist. If you know of better sources, which is different than imagining a better source, then point us to it. We can't use statistics that don't exist.

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    4. Ok, I find this information very interesting. The #'s for death by firearm in countries in which bans for guns or even some guns in particular have occured. I want to see though if they #'s for gun related deaths went down in these countries, such as Australia, but if the homicide rate didn't go down or if it went down by a very minute percentage, while crime rate went up and rape rate went up, eluding to the fact that the net result could be worse off than before the ban on these guns.


      THE PROBLEM IS FINDING ALL THE STATISTICS.

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  2. You could also do the same study in a state by state, county by county analysis of gun ownership in America....You will find that criminals avoid areas of lax gun laws and High gun ownership!

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  3. I made a pretty graph
    http://imgur.com/mMDBR

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  4. In Russia all guns are banned, and their murder rate is 20.54 per 100,000 people. In neighboring Finland and Norway, guns are allowed and their murder rates are 1.98 and 0.81, respectively.

    In Luxembourg, where all guns are banned, the murder rate is 9.01 per 100,000 while in neighboring France and Germany where firearms are allowed, their murder rates are 1.65 and 0.93, respectively.

    In Belarus, where guns are banned, the murder rate is 10.40 per 100,000 whereas Poland and Belgium allow guns and their murder rates are 1.98 and 1.70, respectively.

    So it would appear that in fact more guns = less murder, and less guns = more murder.

    Homicide data from CANADIAN CENTRE FOR JUSTICE STATISTICS, HOMICIDE IN CANADA, JURISTAT.

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  5. You give all these stats, but don't provide a link or information on where I can get these stats?

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  6. Someone wrote in saying there are no links. They please need to look more carefully as there are links provided. Links are in different colors.

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  7. "So it would appear that in fact more guns = less murder, and less guns = more murder."

    No and no and no !
    There are more variables tot ake into consideration. Like culture for example, values, etc...

    Look at this please:
    http://www.psmag.com/culture/the-correlation-between-gun-ownership-and-homicide-rate-55467/

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  8. You write "There are more variable to take into consideration. Like culture for example, values....etc.."

    Well, if that is rebuttal our original article said: "While it would be stupid to say that gun ownership is the only factor influencing homicide rates, it would be even more stupid to claim that the numbers show that gun ownership increases homicides. The evidence does NOT support that when we look at international data."

    So how does us saying that it would stupid "to say that gun ownership is the only factor" so different from you saying there are other variables to take into account? What are you rebutting if that is what we said?

    ReplyDelete