How does the US really compare on firearms? The world’s crime figures are collected by the UNODC through its annual crime survey. It has a special section of data on firearm homicides – and provides detailed information by size of population and compared to other crimes. It is not a perfect dataset – some key nations are missing from the data, including Russia, China and Afghanistan. But it does include the US, UK and many other developed nations.
The Small Arms Survey is also useful – although it is from 2007, it collates civilian gun ownership rates for 178 countries around the world, and has ‘normalised’ the data to include a rate per 100,000 population.
It shows that:
With less than 5% of the world’s population, the United States is home to roughly 35–50 per cent of the world’s civilian-owned guns, heavily skewing the global geography of firearms and any relative comparison
So, given those caveats, we can see which countries have the highest ownership rates for firearms – and which have the highest gun murder rates.
The key facts are:
• The US has the highest gun ownership rate in the world – an average of 88 per 100 people. That puts it first in the world for gun ownership – and even the number two country, Yemen, has significantly fewer – 54.8 per 100 people
• But the US does not have the worst firearm murder rate – that prize belongs to Honduras, El Salvador and Jamaica. In fact, the US is number 28, with a rate of 2.97 per 100,000 people
• Puerto Rico tops the world’s table for firearms murders as a percentage of all homicides – 94.8%. It’s followed by Sierra Leone in Africa and Saint Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean