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 Politifact.com 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.

About Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is from the Dallas-Fort Worth area and has a degree in Political Science. He is a co-founder of Forward Progressives, and author of the popular Right Off A Cliff column. He is also the founder of the Right Off A Cliff facebook page, on which he routinely voices his opinions and stirs the pot for the Progressive movement. Follow Allen on Twitter as well, @Allen_Clifton.

  • 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.