In light of recent mass shootings in the United States, I thought I'd do a brief posting on the subject of gun ownership in America. For my source material, I am using data from the GunPolicy.org website. Please note that GunPolicy.org is hosted by the University of Sydney School of Public Health in Australia and promotes the public health model of firearm injury prevention. Research for this website is supported by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. Let's look at some of the data.
In America, there are an estimated 270,000,000 privately owned firearms for a population of 311.6 million people resulting in a gun ownership rate of 88.2 firearms per 100 people. The overall number of privately owned firearms puts the United States gun ownership at number 1 in the world as does the rate of private gun ownership.
Here is a graph comparing the overall number of guns owned privately for several nations around the world to the United States:
Here is a graph comparing the rate of civilian firearm possession per 100 people for the same nations in the previous graph to the United States:
The rate of gun ownership in the U.S. is nearly twice the rate of the second-place finisher, Switzerland and 3.5 times the rate of gun ownership in Canada. In case you were wondering, the total estimated number of privately owned guns in Canada is 9,950,000 and Canada rates at number 12 in the world for overall number of privately owned guns and number 13 for the rate of gun ownership per 100 people. Of these Canadian guns, 3,500,000 are rifles, 2,600,000 are shotguns and only 1,100,000 are handguns. Looking at Switzerland in more detail, while the country has the second-highest private gun ownership rate, the annual rate of firearm homicide per 100,000 population is a tiny fraction of the rate in the United States as shown on this graph:
Switzerland's anomalous gun ownership rate is related to the military obligation of its residents; members of the Swiss militia store their weapons at home and since service is universal, every male over 20 has a pistol or rifle in his possession.
In the United States, the number of gun homicides over the past 11 years is as follows:
Here is a graph showing the rate of gun homicide per 100,000 people for the United States since 1993:
Here is a graph showing the rate of gun homicide per 100,000 people for Canada since 1992:
Here is a graph showing the rate of gun homicide per 100,000 people for the United Kingdom since 1998:
Not terribly surprising, in both Canada and the United Kingdom, the rate of gun homicide is a fraction of that experienced in the United States.
In closing, here are a few interesting facts and figures:
1.) The annual value of small arms and ammunition exports from the United States in 2009 was reported to be $689,170,603.
2.) The annual value of small arms and ammunition imports into the United States in 2009 was reported to be $1,585,242,738.
3.) The asking price for an AK-47 assault weapon in the United States is $500. By way of comparison, the same weapon sells for only $320 in Yemen and $200 in Algeria.
It is intriguing to look at some detailed statistics about gun ownership and use in the United States. While gun ownership itself is not necessarily an evil thing, the violence associated with the illicit use of guns quite clearly is. Nothing proves that more than the mass shootings of the past year.
South Africa has 12.7 privately owned firearms per 100 people and is ranked at number 50 in the world. Its rate of gun homicide per 100,000 people has been as high as 28.8 in 1994 and has been steadily dropping to a level of 17 in 2007.
Mexico has 15.0 privately owned firearms per 100 people and is ranked at number 42 in the world. Its rate of gun homicide per 100,000 people has ranged from a low of 2.7 in 2004 to a high of 10.0 in 2010.
Russia has 8.9 privately owned firearms per 100 people and is ranked at number 68 in the world. Its rate of gun homicide per 100,000 people is not available on the source website.
Saudi Arabia has 35 privately owned firearms per 100 people and is ranked number 7 in the world. Again, the source website does not have information about the rate of gun homicide, however, the overall rate of homicide by any means ranges from 0.47 to 2.7 per 100,000 people. Perhaps the threat of a quick trip to "Chop Chop Square" in Riyadh for murdering someone is enough of a deterrent to keep homicides down to a near-zero level.