This is what gun ownership looks like around the world

A young boy sits in front of weapons and ammunitions


Joe Myers
Writer, Forum Agenda
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“We know we can’t stop every act of violence, every act of evil in the world. But maybe we could try and stop one act of evil, one act of violence.”

US President Barack Obama has made an emotional and impassioned speech announcing executive orders on gun control. But with levels of civilian gun ownership in the US higher than anywhere else in the world, what impact is this likely to have on gun-related violence?

Where do people own the most guns?

The map shows private gun ownership levels around the world measured by the number of guns per 100 people.

1601B08-gun ownership world USA Vox world map

Source: Vox

The USA has by far and away the highest levels – some 88.8 guns per 100 people in 2012. The next closest country is Yemen, with 54.8 per 100 people.

This translates into another remarkable statistic – 4.4% of the world’s population live in America, but 42% of civilian-owned guns across the world are found in the USA.

Is there a relationship between gun ownership and gun violence?

The following two charts suggest that yes, there is.

The first chart from Mother Jones, a US non-profit news outlet, shows gun ownership against gun violence in US states.

1601B08-gun violence against gun ownership US states mother jones chart

Source: Vox/Mother Jones

Using 2013 data, the chart highlights that there is a correlation between gun ownership and gun deaths. Those states with higher levels of gun ownership do see more gun-related deaths.

This is a trend reflected across the developed world, as shown in the following chart from Tewksbury Lab, a division of the University of Washington.

1601B08-gun violence against gun ownership developed countries tewksbury lab chart

Source: Tewksbury Lab

As the red line of best fit indicates, as gun ownership increases, so do gun related deaths. The USA tops both these indicators in the chart.

The evidence therefore suggests that higher levels of gun ownership do lead to higher levels of gun violence. The gun homicide rate in the USA is six times higher than in Canada, seven times higher than in Sweden, and nearly 16 times higher than in Germany.

Do stricter controls make a difference?

Economist Richard Florida has examined the link between gun deaths and other social indicators, and found that US states with stricter gun control laws have fewer gun-related deaths.

1601B08-stricter gun controls fewer deaths US states map

The evidence suggests that President Obama’s executive action, which bypasses Congress, could have a positive impact on gun violence in the USA, and could be a step on the path towards preventing the mass shootings that have become synonymous with the USA.

Have you read?

The disarming success of gun controls in the Pacific

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Author: Joe Myers is a Digital Content Producer at Formative Content. 

Image: A young boy sits in front of weapons and ammunitions. REUTERS.  

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