Source: Factcheck.org
Source: Factcheck.org

Compared to the world’s other high-income nations, the United States isn’t unusually violent; we’re just unusually lethal.

That’s according to David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. He argues there is a direct connection between the U.S. being leaps and bounds ahead of any other industrialized country in terms of overall gun death rates — and the fact that we have the highest gun-ownership rates in the world

“We are a nation which does not have more crime or more violence,” Hemenway said during a forum on gun violence held shortly after the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn in December 2012. “We are an average nation in terms of assault, robbery  and (non-firearms) homicides.”

What distinguishes the U.S., he notes, is our rate of gun violence: “The United States has a very horrific gun problem … 85 people a day dying from guns from all sorts of injury.” He adds: “Compared to the other developed countries, we are just doing terribly.”

Below are a handful of particularly striking gun homicide stats, based on incomplete 2010 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Scroll over the charts for additional information. It’s important to note, however, that statistics on gun deaths vary fairly broadly based on the federal agency reporting them. These rates, for example, differ noticeably from those reported by the FBI. Note, also, that the terms “firearms” and “guns” are used interchangeably.




The U.S. gun murder rate — which is now actually at its lowest level since the early 1980s — is still more than double that of any other wealthy nation in the world.

Hemenway notes that a child in the U.S is about 13 times more likely to be a victim of a firearm-related homicide than children in most other industrialized nations.

Firearms were the third leading cause of injury-related deaths nationwide in 2010, following poisoning and motor vehicle accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For the sake of comparison, in 2010 there were more than twice as many firearms deaths in the U.S. than terrorism-related deaths worldwide.

The following visualization, produced by Periscopic, uses data from the F.B.I’s Uniform Crime Report (which reported 9,595 homicides for 2010, but did not include data from Florida and Alabama), in an attempt to calculate the years of life stolen from gun murder victims. Each strand in the graph below represents a person killed by gun violence. Visit their site to explore the data by sex, age group and region.

  • da1e_e

    In a lot of these cases the person arrested was in possession of a gun illegally. In others if the shooter is found that will also be the case. These people would not have obeyed gun control laws in any case. They were by definition outlaws. Yet in the mistaken belief that they would follow such a law you would disarm law abiding citizens. In suicides, taking ones life is a terrible thing to do but at times should be left discretion of the person. Either way one can commit suicide if one is determined without a gun.

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Matthew Green

Matthew Green runs KQED’s News Education Project, a new online resource for educators and the general public to help explain the news. The project lives at kqed.org/lowdown.

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