The latest gun news has started a dialogue on the subject, and hopefully it will have a healthy resolution.

I have been having discussions with numerous friends, including a large number of (lawful) gun owners. My view is that having a firearm in your home is both a right and a privilege. Personally, I would treat all guns like cars and all owners like drivers — we should register every gun like an automobile, and license and insure each owner like we do drivers.

There are other issues worth discussing — what to do about all of the illegal guns in the US, how to deal with automatic weapons with high bullet count clips. There is also an issue with how poorly we seem to be coping with mental health problems in America.

That seems to be is a rational place to begin the conversation.

But a few things perplex me about this: Why are gun-related death rates in the US so much higher than in similar countries — i.e.,  economically successful democracies?

When we look at fire-arm related deaths per capita, the US is far ahead of other, similar nations. The United States has 10.2 gun deaths per 100,000 people. That is about 8X the death rate of comparable countries (list after the jump) — and please do not compare the USA to El Salvador, Swaziland or Mexico. We rank 9th overall, and are the 1st modern or weatern nation on the list.

I know the USA is culturally different, and a much younger nation versus most of Europe or Japan.

Still, the difference is perplexing . . .




Economically successful nations, gun related per capita deaths per 100,000 population


Japan 0.07
South Korea 0.13
Hong Kong 0.19
Singapore 0.24
UK 0.25
Taiwan 0.42
Spain 0.63
India 0.93
Ireland 1.03
Australia 1.05
Germany 1.10
Greece 1.50
Italy 1.28
Norway 1.78
Israel 1.86
New Zealand 2.66
Austria 2.94
France 3.00
Switzerland 3.50
Finland 3.64
Canada 4.78


Sources: CDC, UN, Wikipedia

Category: Current Affairs

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

181 Responses to “What Perplexes Me About Gun Deaths in the USA . . .”

  1. I know this is an emotional issue for many of you, but the ground rules for this conversation are simple:

    Be civil.

    Post sources if you are going to throw out data.

    Do not have private conversations, or try to dominate the discussion, or flamebait anyone.

    Filters are set on high — be patient if your comment doesnt show up for a few hours

    Thanks for cooperating . . .

  2. Bomber Girl says:

    I too have been scanning all the data I can to try to figure out something other than “our culture”, although that certainly cannot be discounted as context. US state by state figures for gun related deaths (see Atlantic article from last year) seem to correlate highly with poverty levels (as opposed to mental illness, where there is very little link in general, although in the case of some of these killings, the mental state of the killer is clearly out of whack, so to speak). I guess it would be interesting to see data relating poverty levels in some of the other successful economies to our situation. Perhaps our relative paucity of a safety net is a factor.

  3. mikesteven says:

    I have been thinking about this for a while as well. For note, I am a gun owner and I also own 1 AR rifle which I have no interest in giving up. I understand the comments on the other side saying it has no place in civilian hands. But imo… that doesn’t matter. There is a lot of things which have no place in society but we continue to have it.

    I think crime is so much higher here than in other societies is because we are so narrow focused or short term focused. We have no real past (200 years) compared to so many other nations. We also have no patience. So we view things in like 30 second sound bits and we move on to the next one forgetting the one just past. Lets be honest the tragic events in Newtown, CT (my home state) will be a distant memory come a month from now. I don’t want it to be that way, I do want proper reform.

    So back to my feeling about us never looking far ahead in the future. So we don’t see what the outcome will be after we pull the trigger. All we focus on is that the “problem” has been solved not that the “problem” just started. We are only focused on the next 5 minutes or block ahead. Not whats past that, if that makes any sense. Then you combine the fact that we are a heavy gun nation, well that spells trouble. I don’t know also if other nations have the level of gangs as we do in this nation (majority of them being young males). We seem never to properly deal with them so they go off the wall with violence.

    Also I think it has to do something as well with movies and video games as well. Movies always portray the hero going against the odds and winning and being shot but continuing on. Video games give you the sense, that you take someone down and at the end of the round they come back. I don’t think its one issue that causes us to be this way but a combination.

  4. AtlasRocked says:

    Drug traffic? Aren’t significant amounts of our gun killings related to drug dealing?

    And black on black killings? What are those %s? Do we have a significantly higher black population than those other countries?

    Sorry no time to look up the numbers, but I recall these being coincident with many killings.

  5. george lomost says:

    Barry, one possibility: We’re a nation of immigrants. I immigrated here with my parents when I was ten. Only one other near close relative of ours immigrated (to Germany), everyone else stayed home. Immigration or emigration depending on your point of view does not just happen. People have to make decisions and then act upon them. It’s risky. You need to want to do things, things that some might consider dangerous, high risk, etc. If there is some cultural or genetic involved in this, it is overrepresented in our population.

    Does this explain anything? I don’t know. But people here seem to be able to pick up and move a lot more easily than folks I know in the old country. I don’t have any numbers. 8-))

  6. GeriArctic says:

    It seems you may have to take into consideration the rate of firearm ownership and type of firearm owned.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see a stronger relationship between more portable and easier to conceal guns (ie handguns) and gun deaths than with rifles/shotguns and gun deaths.

  7. formerlawyer says:

    Like him or loathe him, Michael Moore had some interesting comments on why at the Huffington Post (with no suggested solutions), basically: our racist heritage, income inequality and individualism mythos.

  8. chartist says:

    I think the need to physically defend oneself is actually a metaphor for the fear of losing one’s socio-economic standing. I believe this has been handed down through the generations when each generation had to fight to protect their standing against the next wave of immigrants willing and eager to perform the same labor at substantially lower wages. I believe this is why we see ourselves as islands rather than part of the whole and therefore lack significant ability for empathy. Given we are a young nation, we might be unique in this sense. I suspect, in a few hundred years, citizens of the United States will have a common sense of nationlism as economic opportunity becomes globally ubiquitous leading to decreased immigration.

  9. dyrwolf says:

    Automatic weapons (with or without high capacity magazines) are already highly regulated. Only guns built before 1986 (I think that is the date) can be transferred between individuals. Such a transfer requires a federal tax stamp and notification and permission from local law enforcement. I believe such ownership opens the owner to warrant less search at any time of the premises, to make sure papers are in order. Any weapon without proper papers results in 10 years in federal prison. These restrictions also apply to the parts needed to change semi automatic to fully automatic. Many people use trusts to own these weapons and parts, so that on death transfer goes smoothly without resulting in criminal prosecution.

    While one can pose the question of whether anyone needs such a weapon, I can add that the owners I know own them for investment purposes, and their appreciation far outstrips most other investment vehicles. I was offered a fully automatic UZI last spring for $6000 (through a federal dealer), and in the one day I thought about it (I decided I did not want on the government “master” list), another buyer offered $12000.

    I am not sure what additional restrictions someone would want on automatic weapons, other than some confiscatory scheme, which I imagine would get real messy.

    As for semi automatic with large clips, I am not sure the difference between 1 15 round magazine for a handgun, as opposed to 2 8 round ones. Popping the empty clip and inserting a new one takes only a second or two.

    Finally, for all those opposed to private gun ownership, consider whether you are comfortable placing a sign in you yard announcing your property as a gun free zone. If such an idea is opposed, it seems a little hypocritical to me.

  10. denim says:

    While no gun was drawn, can anyone assure me that this is not just a “kinder, gentler” and related example of a widespread acting out violence problem?
    Kentucky Stomper Charged With Fourth-Degree Assault

  11. CANDollar says:

    Speaking as a Canadian, the highest rate of gun death on the list, what I observe of guns is:

    Some people have long guns for hunting that must be kept in a locked locker with a lock on it. You have to pass a course to use the firearm and you are checked when buying it. We used to have a registry but the latest government destroyed the records this year. You cannot own a handgun except in very specific circumstances.

    Crimes with handguns happen in the big cities but are rare elsewhere. Police take gun possession very seriously. Gun crimes happen but the rate seems to be less than half that of US. Handgun crimes are on an upswing.

    There is a rural urban divide with respect to attitudes about guns but even those in favour of guns do not usually talk about using them for defence. Even so it is common that rural gun owners use them for hunting and pest control.

    Few people worry about guns except in select areas of cities. This is changing with more worry than in past.

    There really isn’t a “gun culture” that is widespread. Most Canadians, except in rural areas seem to not to want to own a gun.

    Perhaps the reason there are more deaths is because when there is such easy access, guns might be used instead of other less lethal weapons.

    I have no personal problems with people owning guns, I was given one by my parents at age 9 (22) and was free to use it for target practice, I was taught to use long guns at summer camp and we had 2 long guns in our house and ammunition (303 and 22) growing up. However I still like to know it is extremely improbably that anyone around me has a gun on there person or in their home and if they do they are almost certainly certified hunters or target shooters. This sentiment is common here.

    Hope this might be useful….

  12. formerlawyer says:

    @george lomost Says:

    Australia is a nation founded by criminals ie. unwilling immigrants, Canada is an immigrant nation, and almost all of South American countries dominant cultures were based on immigrants (albeit some long time ago).

    I don’t think that explanation flies

  13. Centurion 9.41 says:

    Read the study published in Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy:

    The simple answer is the data sets you look to are flawed and biased.

    There is actually a negative correlation to gun control and murder/suicide. Also, the data you cite makes no distinction regarding the background of those who commit murder; break it down by prior convictions and gang relationships vs. law abiding citizens without a record and all the “gun control” arguments fall apart.

    Read the piece and you’ll see the gun control assertions are simply not supported by the data or history.

    In the end it’s a simple answer, moral values and cultural values.

    Anyone who thinks people raised in a society with the level of violience in movies, TV, video games that exists in America, and in a culture that says to young women the chopping up of a tiny featus in the womb is an acceptable act so she can pursue their wants…. anyone who is confused by the above data or of how the horror of SHES could occur … has a much much deeper misunderstanding of the situation than sociological data.

  14. RW says:

    I don’t have stats handy but as far as I can tell it is not only relatively easier to own and acquire a gun in the USA but also obtain ammunition for it, almost certainly a great deal less expensive than the social costs/externalities of gun ownership and use.

    Low barriers to entry and operation coupled with whatever other factors foster a predilection for gun violence or just plain gun carelessness (there do seem to be a fair number of accidents out there too).

  15. Centurion 9.41 says:

    I’m looking for the study/data which I once heard supported the fact of murder rates by law abiding Concealed Carry holders is the same as that of the police. Such data would say a lot. If anyone has heard of a similar study, regardless of the outcome, please let us know.

  16. dbrodess says:

    It’s really simple. More guns (per cap). More fatalities (per cap). Sorry about the formatting but the trend is unambiguous. More guns, more death.
    Guns per 100 residents Fatalities/ 1,000,000
    USA 88 102
    Canada 31 48
    Germany 30 11
    UK 6 3
    NZ 23 27
    AU 15 11
    source: Took these from two Wikipedia pages
    the sources for the stats are listed on those pages.

  17. Hey Barry,

    Why is this type of discussion on a website that most people come to for investments. Are you pandering to your liberal, progressive friends or what. Why not start a website devoted to such political issues or a “political section” on the current site. Are you now a political commentator or an investment commentator? Seems like you have lectured us in the past to avoid mixing politics and investment. Oh yes, I forgot…………it is your site. As a true liberal/progressive you really do practice: “Do as I say, not as I do.”

    The CM

  18. Ron,

    This is on a personal blog — its not a company site, I am not selling a subscription service. ITS A BLOG! A (free) blog. Its here for me to publish what I want, what I am thinking about, for my own interest, entertainment and community.

    If you don’t like the post, you can skip to the one before it or the one before that. There are about 25,000 of them, so you have lots to choose from.

    I am surprised you have an issue where I ask the assembled for their views. You 2nd amendment types seem to care very little for the one that precedes . . .

  19. Frilton Miedman says:

    Three major factors take the perplexity out of this.


    - We have 8 times the number of guns per person than any other country in the world,
    It’s a statistical given we should have at least 8X the number of gun deaths (we have more, actually) – The fact that Japan and Australia have completely eliminated gun death’s after either banning or regulating firearms IS NOT coincidence.

    - 40% of all guns sold go to individuals seeking to buy them without background checks, it’s much less expensive for drug cartels and gangs to use straw buyers than to pay black market prices.

    - Assault weapons & extended mags increase the dead count per incident, no, not large cal hunting rifles – the recoil prevents the accuracy in rapid fire a .223 assault weapon allows.

    All three factors would make it perplexing for us not to have a high rate of gun deaths per capita….we practically encourage criminals to load up by not regulating, registering and doing background checks.

    Everything I cite is found here –

  20. algernon says:

    The stats you present of gun-caused homicides/100,000 pop. do not agree with what you posted earlier:
    In this from the Guardian, for instance, Switzerland with very heavy gun ownership only had .77 gun-homicides/100,000.

    Looking through the Guardian chart implies pretty strongly that culture is a huge variant. It would be interesting to know what stats are for North & South Dakota, which might have the best remaining culture in the US.

    Something that should be scrutinized related to our recent tragedies is the complex effects of psyhiatric medications these psycho Americans were under the influence of. Iatrogenesis is probably a lot more common than we would imagine.

  21. obijohn says:

    Centurion 9.41 is right: if you look at murder rates by demographics there are some very un-PC conclusions.

    It is all about culture and values. Up until the mid-1960s, it was legal, and common, to see people toting a rifle on the NYC subway. There weren’t a lot of people shooting up the subway back then. I went to high school in the mid-1970s, and we all had pocket knives and during hunting season we had guns in the trunks of our cars (to hunt with, before and after school). Yet, there were no school shootings, or stabbings, at any of the schools I went with in any of the cities and towns I lived in.

    Guns haven’t changed. What has? The culture has changed. Today’s culture glorifies criminality, and much urban culture is built around the ethos of the stone-cold gangsta who carries a gun and will use it against anyone who dares to ‘diss’ him. This wasn’t so in my youth; up until the 1960s gangster movies always had the bad guy paying the price in the end, to show that crime didn’t pay. This all changed in the ’60s and afterwards. Today, the only men worth respecting onscreen are the violent ones who do not hesitate to use force… from Michael Corleone to Sonny Crockett to Tony Soprano. Quenton Tarentino has made a career out of glorifying senseless, gratuitous violence without apology, and admits his fascination with the type of person for which violence is merely one of many valid alternatives. Any father figure on TV is ridiculed as unintelligent and incompetent. Combine these two stereotyped alternatives with the fact that more than half of the young men growing up in this nation have no father figure to act as mentor and role model, and what else would you expect?

    If you don’t sell drugs, use drugs, or hang around those who do, you have a better chance of being killed by lightning than from gun violence. If you were raised by a law-abiding father figure you will almost certainly not become a criminal. It’s really that simple. Culture and values.

  22. M says:

    We have a lot more guns per capita.

    Guns are killing machines. They make violence more “productive”. The US violent crime rate isn’t all that much out of line with, say, the UK, violent crime rate. But guns make violence (murder, negligent homicide, suicide) much more lethal.

    The most straight forward way to deal with this problem is to limit the number of guns. That is what has worked everywhere else.

    The USA has cultural and legal challenges. There has been a fair bit of revisionist history put forth about the 2nd. There is no lack of primary source discussion of what the 2nd meant to the founders. I suggest people who are worried about intent read them. My feeling is that times have changed so much that it is time to revisit the constitutional issue. Practically though, I think the Constitutional issue will limit gun control for some time.

    But, this is the season of hope, and I think there is reason to be hopeful about gun violence in the USA. Both gun violence and violent crime are on the decline. The violent crime rate in 2010 was 403.6 per 100k, the lowest rate it since 1973. (US Dept of Justice) Gun violence correlates closely with violent crime. “Homicides committed with firearms peaked in 1993.” They have fallen steadily and significantly (per capita) since then (ibid.).

    “Most Americans believe crime in U.S. is worsening,” but the statistics prove otherwise. One way or another, some progress is being made. Far too many people are killed by guns in the US. As a society we need to do better. But, despite the unique challenges we have in the US we are improving. I hope knowing that we can do better, that we are not doomed to ever more horrible crime rates, will encourage us to do more.

    See also National Institute of Justice

  23. jasons says:

    I think the headline numbers are misleading. Half of all gun deaths in the US are suicides. I live in Japan, which has double the suicide rate of the US, but no guns. So the social picture looks more rosy in Japan if you just look at gun deaths, but it looks worse if you look at the suicide rate. I bet there are similar complications in comparisons with other developed countries.

    Another thing to think about is the differentiation between assault and murder. I would guess that violent acts in the US results in more murders than assaults simply b/c the readily available guns are more effective at killing than the knives and baseball bats available in other developed countries. Maybe we need a more generalized or composite “violence metric” to compare countries. For example, our streets could be much safer than the UK’s, but the gun death rate from muggings in the US could be much higher. The intensity shows up in gun death stats, while the frequency would show up in a violence metric. Where would you rather live?

    Last, as mentioned above, who are the people doing the killing and dying? If it’s mostly poor people, then our Gini coefficient can explain a lot of this aspect of our American Exceptionalism.

  24. jasons

    Here’s the data: Suicides accounted for 55 percent of the nation’s nearly 31,000 firearm deaths in 2005, according to statistics are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Related, between 2000 and 2008 motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death by injury, but suicide surpassed car crashes in 2009, according to a recent study in the American Journal of Public Health.

  25. Northeaster says:

    Tell the 200+ YoY individuals and families that successfully deterred/defended (some IN THEIR OWN HOME) against a crime using a firearm that having a firearm isn’t worth it.

    Of course, the greater discussion in this now Banana Republic, is the ultimate in hypocrisy within our own government (i.e. drones, 18 year-olds killing ON PURPOSE 3k miles away). Or, politicians that have Secret Service and State Police details to “protect” them. Not sure about all of you, but my children are just a important to me, as even The President’s is to him. Since I have the “unalienable RIGHT” to pursue and defend “Life”, meaning me and mine, the anti-gun crowd want to use emotional arguments to take away those rights.

    The honest discussion is to realize the Rule of Law is longer applied equally, and argument can be made if it even exists anymore. The further down the rabbit hole we go, the less I want to freely give up yet another RIGHT.

  26. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    CANDollar nailed it:

    “Some people have long guns for hunting that must be kept in a locked locker with a lock on it. You have to pass a course to use the firearm and you are checked when buying it. We used to have a registry but the latest government destroyed the records this year. You cannot own a handgun except in very specific circumstances.

    Crimes with handguns happen in the big cities but are rare elsewhere. Police take gun possession very seriously. Gun crimes happen but the rate seems to be less than half that of US. Handgun crimes are on an upswing.”

    Guns made for the purpose of killing people (hand guns and assault rifles), end up killing people.

    Hey, The Chartmeister:

    Yahoo Finance has plenty O’ good financial junk. An enterprising fellow could spend his whole evening there, without once coming in here and being soiled by that nasty liberal funk that Ritholtz peddles.

  27. mgnorton says:

    The “More Guns = More Gun Deaths” argument doesn’t hold up by itself. After all, Canada has only 1 more gun per 100 citizens then Germany, and yet their fatality rate is over four times as high. This isn’t as simple as any of the X vs. Y models that so many are trying to apply to it.

  28. nap70 says:

    When the question is about the difference between the US and the rest of the world, I’m sorry to say you should usually break it down by race. The DOJ statistics clarify, For 2005, homicides per 100,000 in the US by offender’s race are White (3.5), Black (26.5), Other (2.8). Black offenders use a gun as a weapon more than whites at 56.4% to 41.9%.

    Just the be clear, I am not trying to place blame but just trying to find the difference you were looking for. The other countries on your list have fairly homogenous populations. US gun homicides by white offenders wouldn’t stand out in that list.

  29. Conan says:

    When discussing death by fire-arms it could be caused by at least 3 things at a minimum. Homicide, suicide or accidental. So as a curiosity I compared the list provided vs the homicide rate for the same countries. Remember the homicide rate is for all causes, i.e. gun, knife, blunt instrument, etc. So most of the discussion in these types of articles is for homicide. So below are some observations

    Country and Homicide Rate
    Fire-arm death per 100,00
    United States 10.2 4.20 Total Homicide much lower than death by fire-arm
    Japan 0.07 0.40
    South Korea 0.13 2.60 Much higher homicide rate vs fire-arm
    Hong Kong 0.19 0.20
    Singapore 0.24 0.30
    UK 0.25 1.20 Much higher homicide rate vs fire-arm
    Taiwan 0.42 3.20 Much higher homicide rate vs fire-arm
    Spain 0.63 0.80
    India 0.93 3.40 Much higher homicide rate vs fire-arm
    Ireland 1.03 1.20
    Australia 1.05 1.00
    Germany 1.10 0.80
    Greece 1.50 1.50
    Italy 1.28 0.90
    Norway 1.78 0.60 Total Homicide much lower than death by fire-arm
    Israel 1.86 2.10
    New Zealand 2.66 0.90 Total Homicide much lower than death by fire-arm
    Austria 2.94 0.60 Total Homicide much lower than death by fire-arm
    France 3.00 1.10 Total Homicide much lower than death by fire-arm
    Switzerland 3.50 0.70 Total Homicide much lower than death by fire-arm
    Finland 3.64 2.20 Total Homicide much lower than death by fire-arm
    Canada 4.78 1.60 Total Homicide much lower than death by fire-arm

    Thus the above would indicate to me that we have an issue of mental health due to suicides or gun safety due to accidents, plus the classic component of homicide. However the homicide component maybe lower than is sometimes stated.

  30. Hey Petey…………….

    Have you read the top of this website lately:


    I see nothing that suggests that liberal/progressive causes will show up on this site.

    I suggest you try Politico, Huffington, et al.

    Seems like a fellow like you would love to post/hang out on those sites

  31. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    Now that you know the disclaimer is worthless drivel, designed to lure unsuspecting capitalists into a lair of liberal and progressive filth, why bother coming here, at all.


    I like it.

  32. ilsm says:

    Today, I view anyone who owns an AR 15 or Bushmaster the same as a sex offender the community needs to know them.

    I now support registration, and check up for owners.

    I have owned and used long rifles/shotguns for over 40 years. Shotguns and heavy caliber hunting rifles. I qualified on M-16 in the service. I do a little target practice to sight my weapons.

    I believe that each time I touch one of my weapons it can kill and I treat it as such, and take responsibility making sure it only kills the game animal I am out for.

    “In 2005, an average of 46 Americans per day committed suicide with a firearm, accounting for 53% of all completed suicides. Gun suicide during this period accounted for 40% more deaths than gun homicide.”

    Uing the automatic .223 and .17 HMR for target practice is wrong! Why not .30? Too much kick?

    Why use automatic? Bolt action is too accurate?

    Some people want guns because they do not trust the government, often these would over throw it.

    In March 1861 the governor of South Carolina told US Army Major Anderson that repairing Fort Moutrie would be an act of war!

    Why are anarchists more palatable today than in 1917?

  33. And I also realize that: “Birds of a feather, flock together.” Me? I’m trying (and have been trying for quite some time) to tell Barry that he is destroying one of the best INVESTMENT sites on the internet.

  34. Ron,

    There is a button on the browser that says next post.

    If you dont like this one, GO TO THE NEXT ONE.

  35. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    Nah. He’s making it even better.

  36. PlanadaBob says:

    I think jasons Says: has a good point. If the data were parsed to eliminate suicides, as well as gang/drug related violence it would likely paint a different picture. Drug and gang mayhem would not subside if guns are outlawed, IMHO.

    Without the ability to own guns, the bigger and stronger criminals would be emboldened to pillage without fear of reprisal. Ask Australians who were adults when guns were taken out of the hands of citizens. Home invasions and robberies (with knives) rose sharply. The elderly and weak will become a feeding ground for the strong and criminal. Redistribution of wealth through a different methodology…

    Lastly, if guns are outlawed only the law abiding citizens will be unarmed. And, if we can’t keep people from entering our country illegally, how could we ever expect to keep guns from entering illegally?

  37. Tim says:

    It’s all the white guys we have. When is the last time one of these mass murderers wasn’t a white male? Time to start profiling them.

    Or,…. at least don’t go WWIII when one of these days its an Arab, Mexican, or black guy and blame it on their entire race and culture…

  38. bubbles says:

    First there needs to be a clarification about 10.2 firearm deaths per 100,000 people.

    “In the U.S. for 2010, there were 31,513 deaths from firearms, distributed as follows by mode of death: Suicide 19,308; Homicide 11,015; Accident 600.”

    So, only about 1/3 of all firearm deaths were homicides this equates to 2.97 per 100,000 people, see the Guardian article below for reference. To put this into perspective “About 600,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.”

    I tried posting this comment in BR’s post titled “Gun Stats, Research and Sources” but the comments were closed for some reason.

    The Harvard study that was referenced in that post “More Guns = More Homicide” isn’t much of a study. They’re essentially saying that there is more “risk of homicides” in countries which have more firearms. Logically this sounds correct.

    However; according to the Guardian article that was referenced in the same post “Gun Homicides and Gun Ownership Listed by Country” while the U.S. has the highest gun ownership rate by far “the US does not have the worst firearm murder rate… In fact, the US is number 28, with a rate of 2.97 per 100,000 people”. It should be noted that the U.S. ranking is likely much lower because for many violent countries these statics weren’t available.

    Regarding the developed countries which BR wanted everyone to focus on I’d like to know their suicide rates and their method of choice?

    The fact is 2 out of every 3 gun deaths is a suicide in the U.S. which in 2007 had a rate of suicides of 11.3 per 100K people or 34,598 suicides

  39. RW says:

    The Kates and Mauser paper cited by Centurion 9.41 was welcomed by the pro-gun lobby as one might expect but it has been criticized as irrelevant to the question of gun patterns in higher-income/developed countries and misleading in its conclusions because it either aggregates their statistics with under-developed and/or non-democratic nations or cherry picks historical periods within the data sets of developed nations.

    I rather suspect that, once the inclusion of irrelevant statistics from countries such as Russia are removed and historical periods appropriately rationalized or smoothed, that a clear, positive relationship between gun ownership and gun violence in advanced nations will be revealed as it has been in other major studies on the subject.

    But we shall see and doubtless it will take time: As was the case with the decades-long pro-tobacco lobby and ongoing pro-carbon (climate change denial) lobbies, where major corporate profit centers are at issue the funding for agnotological research and publication can be quite extensive.

    NB: There are also a couple cases where Kates work may involve fabrication; e.g., Lambert, T. (2/10/1996)

  40. theexpertisin says:

    Gun control, although a sound concept, is not going to be an easy sell to millions of citizens who truly believe our current courts and state and federal governments are problems, not solutions.

    Perhaps gun control begins with Presidents being impeached and judges and political operatives banished from the public payroll for authorizing thousands of young men and women to fight, and die, in undeclared wars. That would stop more deaths by firearms than anything else being discussed……

  41. Non Sequor says:

    I’ve seen a post somewhere saying that if you look at the rate of gun deaths compared between the US and Europe, the US looks horrible, but if you look at homicide rates (i.e. including both gun and non-gun homicides), the rates are comparable.

    Gun related deaths are made up of accidental deaths, homicides, and suicides. The accidental death rate from guns is much lower than the other two sources (0.3 per 100,000). Homicides are more significant at 3.7 per 100,000 and the largest contribution comes from suicides at 6.1 per 100,000.

    For reference, the death rate for 20 year olds is roughly 20 per 100,000, for 30 year olds it’s about 30 per 100,000, for 40 year olds it’s roughly 80 per 100,000.

    You might be able to devise a public policy that cuts the accidental deaths down to zero, but that would just be a drop in the bucket. For those 3.7 and 6.1 deaths from homicides and suicides though, I’m not sure that a policy either decreasing or increasing the availability of guns will substantially alter these figures so much as it may push them into other categories. In terms of the country as a whole, you aren’t likely to put a dent in the death rate. I can’t rule out the possibility that if you drill down to cities with crime problems that the picture may be different and that there might be more possible improvements which gun control could make, but that would create more of an argument in favor of allowing state and local governments to determine their own policy rather than something at the federal level.

    If you look at history, we really have come so far in reducing the death rate among young people that all that remains are some pernicious issues (war, murder, suicide, accidental death, some particularly difficult to treat diseases, lifestyle issues created by the abundance of food) that humans are relatively powerless against so far. We tend to be very emotionally invested in choices that relate to these remaining causes of young death because reducing them further tends to involve tradeoffs and people try to validate which end of the tradeoff they’ve chosen. Deploying penicillin didn’t really involve any major tradeoffs. It was such a huge win that there wasn’t a reason to argue about the social impact of it. But as we start to take measures to reduce the impact of causes of death that are already low, it becomes less clear cut.

  42. RW says:

    Meant to add that its probably a multivariate problem so just looking a total gun ownership vs. gun injury/death rate without including regulatory/legal regime is probably not going to be particularly illuminating even if it does reveal a positive relationship.

    Trying to standardize this sort of thing is very difficult because each country is different in approach, culture, legal system, etc which is why I tend to focus on the cost and ease of ownership as the appropriate confounding variables.

  43. Frilton Miedman says:

    Northeaster Says:
    December 26th, 2012 at 8:23 pm
    “Tell the 200+ YoY individuals and families that successfully deterred/defended (some IN THEIR OWN HOME) against a crime using a firearm that having a firearm isn’t worth it.”


    Tell that to the 12,000 families of YoY gun fatalities.

    FYI, I don’t oppose he 2nd amendment, I only oppose tunnel-vision statistics.

  44. Frilton Miedman says:

    Northeaster Says:
    December 26th, 2012 at 8:23 pm
    “Tell the 200+ YoY individuals and families that successfully deterred/defended (some IN THEIR OWN HOME) against a crime using a firearm that having a firearm isn’t worth it.”


    Tell that to the 12,000 families of YoY gun fatalities.

    FYI, I don’t oppose the 2nd amendment, I only oppose tunnel-vision statistics.

  45. barbacoa666 says:

    The study would seem to be flawed. Russia, at least as of 2002, was not widely considered a developed country. And if is accurate, in 2000, “nearly nearly 50% of the nation’s economy was linked with organized crime,” per two references (Am Fed Sciences and BBC). Certainly, this is not normal for the majority of countries of the world.

    And Luxembourg is cited as having 0 gun ownership and 9 murders per 100k pop. Luxembourg does not appear to have had anywhere near 9 murders per 100k population in 2002. It looks like the murder rate in 2002 was about 1.7/100k
    Ref: Population and Development Review,” December 2009, Homicide Rates in a Cross-Section of Countries: Evidence and Interpretations (pages 749–776).

    Does 1.7/100k make sense? Yes. Per the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, in 2009 the rate was 2.5.

    And according to the GunPolicy.Org, private gun ownership does exist in Luxembourg.
    -The estimated total number of guns held by civilians in Luxembourg is 70,000
    -The rate of private gun ownership in Luxembourg is 15.32 firearms per 100 people
    Ref: “ is hosted by the Sydney School of Public Health, the University of Sydney. The School providesi nternationally recognised leadership in public health by advancing and disseminating knowledge — in this case, supporting global efforts to prevent gun injury.”

  46. investorinpa says:

    Ok, I’m going to give a shot (no pun intended) at this. My background: 2nd generation Asian, non gun owning male in my mid 30′s with no kids, and libertarian leaning politically (just so its out of the way). I’ve shot guns at the range before. Have a lot of gun loving friends, many of whom are hunters, some of whom are constitutionalists, some of whom are cops and/or from law enforcement families. Also am afraid to own a handgun in my house.

    Here’s my thoughts:
    1) Arming EVERY citizen is an answer that is not practical.
    2) Disarming law abiding folks is not an answer either.
    3) Registering and insuring guns helps SOMEWHAT, but would not have prevented tragedies like the Connecticut shooting. Lawbreakers would find a way.
    4) Barry wrote not to compare the US to Mexico, El Salvador, etc, but it seems almost all but Swaziland are all based in the “New World” side of the Atlantic, eg North and South America. Guns may truly be an “American” problem in the sense that its a North and South American problem. Clearly, there has to be something of a relationship here, no?
    5) Are there any studies on the types of gun availability vs. gun related deaths? Is there a true correlation between the number of assault weapons vs. gun related deaths, or are most by handgun? Anyone know?
    6) Perhaps instead of comparing the US to all the other “developed” countries, we need to consider that the US is truly unique. We are far different than our neighbors Canada and Mexico, unlike say, France, which is similar to its neighbors more so than we are.

  47. donna says:

    It is very difficult to own a gun in a lot of those countries, especially in Japan

  48. tradeking13 says:

    The US has the highest rate of incarceration in the world…

    …so, it would seem we have more criminals than those other economically successful nations.

  49. donna says:

    And stop blaming the video games. ALL these countries play the same kinds of video games we play.

  50. ShakyShot says:

    Barry, I applaud that you talked to a large number of legal gun owners, but your statement of “other issues” indicates you might not be adequately educated regarding firearm types and requirements for legal ownership of them. Regarding your issue “how to deal with automatic weapons with high bullet count clips”, be advised that “automatic” firearms are (since 1930′s) individually federally licensed ($200 fee) and relatively few are publicly owned, legal or otherwise. However, tens of millions of “semi-automatic” firearms that will accept high capacity clips are legally owned. Legally owned high capacity clips number many tens of millions. The facts of current ownership must be recognized in addressing the issues. Also, be aware that when high capacity clips were previously banned, anyone willing to pay $50 for a $20 clip could obtain one.

    What is your issue of “all the illegal guns”? In most of the US, essentially all guns except un-licensed automatic ones are legal to be owned by any non-felon. What did you mean?

    According to Wikipedia, “An assault rifle is a selective fire (either fully automatic or burst capable) rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine.” The gun control proponents inaccurately use the “assault rifle” (negative) term to describe semi-automatic rifles that they don’t like the looks of. However, other models of semi-automatic rifles that don’t look so “bad” will accept the same capacity clips and are equally deadly. Be aware of the huge number of currently, legally owned semi-automatic firearms and large capacity clips that fit them, “assalt” appearing and otherwise. Be aware also that both types are used for game hunting and target shooting, as well as kept for home defense.

    In proposing gun restrictions, please evaluate the probability of enforcement and effectiveness. As you have seen with fraud, laws are not always effective! Thanks

  51. Randlepmurphy says:

    Being a wage slave to Uncle Sam like most people these days I have little time to dig for lots of stats. That being the case I would love for someone to be able to dig up stats (if they exist) of relative levels of murder and or violent crime per capita from the 50′s, 60′s and 70′s across contries. My expectation is that we would find greater geographic uniformity the farther we go back. The question becomes why? I do believe that culture has played a large role in bringing us to where we are.

    I believe that Newtown is an outlier in the data because of the developmental problems of the adolescent shooter. Why have I seen nothing in the media about how the mother failed to adequately secure her firearms? Did the young man indeed have Asperger’s Syndrome? One of the defining characteristics is “difficulties in social interaction”. Only the most incompetent educator would not know this. How could she not take extraordinary to secure the firearms that he apparently enjoyed shooting?

    We will now be bludgened to the point of exhaustion with emotional propaganda. The mindless hyperbole and inability to put thoughts into a cogent paragraph displayed in the opening remarks of ilsm above is but one example. Two of the more recent mindless emotional rushes to legislate got us TARP and Obamacare. We really can’t afford to make that a habit.

  52. DiggidyDan says:

    I think the failed “war on drugs” , poverty cycles, and ease of access all play apart in the sheer numbers, however, none of that seems like it would play a part in random nutcases going on rampages like Newtown or the Firefighter shooting. Those people want to kill no matter what, and will find a way (albeit, may kill fewer at a time without ease of access to efficient methods of killing such as assault rifles/automatic/large mag semi-automatic weapons).

    There aren’t any easy answers, but it seems like lunatics have always gone off the deep end for killing sprees. Sad but true. The reactionary OMG! Ban all guns and open public schools! in the press and battling between both sides seems a lot like the “Recency Effect” to which you often refer on this blog in the context of investing behavioral biases. It also applies to social norms and lawmaking.

    RIP young children and heroes.

  53. Freestate says:

    Kudos to Barry because I actually learned quite a few new things in this gun control discussion. The Firearm and Injury Center at the university of Pennsylvania has a very interesting presentation at the site here:

    This confirms what several have posted – that more than half the firearm deaths are suicides. And if you look at the color coded map in the Univ of Penn publication you will see that the firearm death rate is very high in the western states. And that in many of these states – such as Alaska and Wyoming, suicides are over 80% of all gun deaths.

    But the Penn monograph also shows the same breakdown for developed and emerging market countries. And it looks like suicides account for even a greater proportion of deaths from guns in the developed countries. So that means that even though half the deaths from guns in the U.S. are suicides, our homicide rate is still much higher than other countries’ rates.

    There is a lot more information in the Penn monograph for those interested. The Penn FICAP group is not offering easy solutions in their study, but the following statement that they back up with numerous facts seems to be their main claim: “While some studies suggest that firearms can serve a protective function, the bulk of evidence suggests that gun availability increases the likelihood for individuals to be killed or to kill another person.”

  54. farfetched says:

    I find this discussion as interesting as investment and trading, because I think they are related.

    I’ll just number this or it could go on and on….

    1. Barry is right. We should use the same exact methodology for gun safety that we use for automobile safety. Cars have alarms, locks, fingerprint authentication, “Lojack” tracking and disabling, nationwide registration, insurance, and the same potential to kill people or be misused. No one is saying “cars don’t kill people, people kill people” or “They are trying to take our cars away”.

    2. Mental health. We are a violent culture. Everything about us is violent. Our religions are violent, our entertainment is violent, we are violent to one another and we are violent to other nations and even people we supposedly love. So how is this related to investment/trading? Bear with me.

    As I read many of the posts above it strikes me that the same type of meme is repeated over and over whether it has causation or not. None addresses how we could resolve some of our concerns. Barry starts with some answers like my number 1. above. This is alot like how many deal with investment, which is driven by our amygdala/fear center of our brains. We Americans LOVE to use and exercise our primitive lizard brains. We LOVE violent sports. To the point of cheering our children in school football endangering them with REAL brain damage. We scream and yell at officials at our kids softball and football games. We accuse anyone of attempting to slow the Iraq war as traitors, when they were attempting to get everyone to stop and use their cerebral cortex to govern their amygdala and use logic. Either we were for or against us? We drive like our lives depend on it. We drive violently, to the point of threatening our safety and shooting or ramming other drivers. We exercise our primitive brains on a daily basis in just about every endeavor including investment and trading. Those that use and exercise the cerebral cortex, our higher human logic, are considered dweebs, geeks, dorks, 4 eyes, chickens, yellow bellies, book worms, etc etc. We award scholarships for athletics and it is practically a religion in some areas of the country while we do nothing to foster scholarship, science, math, engineering, etc. All the areas we lag the rest of the world in. Is this accidental? I think not.

    You get better at what you practice and work at. We liberally fund and practice exercising our primitive brains while our higher functioning amygdala is denied and shrinks in value. Look how much we pay athletes and our ‘violent’ CEO’s. This is a systemic problem in our culture. We need to refocus our culture. This is an ingrained issue in our culture compared to others. I think this explains the rate of violence in our culture as opposed to many others. Canada is the closest to the U.S. so it makes sense (what with the hockey violence) that they would be right behind us.

  55. nyet says:

    The USA is 5% of the world’s population but we have 50% of the world’s guns.

    There is clear evidence that tightening laws — even in highly individualistic countries with long traditions of gun ownership — can reduce gun violence. In Australia, after a 1996 ban on all automatic and semiautomatic weapons — a real ban, not like the one we enacted in 1994 with 600-plus exceptions — gun-related homicides dropped 59 percent over the next decade. The rate of suicide by firearm plummeted 65 percent. (Almost 20,000 Americans die each year using guns to commit suicide — a method that is much more successful than other forms of suicide.)

    for more see

  56. Bob is still unemployed   says:

    I so dislike when others posts a link to a video without some manner of summary of that video. Personally, I find the pace of many (most?) web videos to run too slowly, I’d rather read the transcript to learn what is being said. I can read and understand much, much more quickly than I can watch and understand via most web videos. Having said that….

    OK, you’ve gotten this far in my ramblings (thank-you for hanging in there). So let me get to the point.

    When gun control is mentioned, things like mental health issues, and video game violence often are drawn into the conversation. I’ve often wondered whether they have been drawn in more as a diversion from the main issue, or whether they have a real bearing upon the problem we all face with gun homicides in our neighborhoods.

    This video is one viewpoint on the problem and how our (i.e., the gun homicide problem here in this great Country of ours) compares to other countries.

    After viewing the video, I have to wonder why we (the citizens of the Untied States) have become such a homicidal citizenry.

    The one thing I cannot understand through all of this discussion….

    What is it about this Great Country of Ours that compels us to shoot our fellow citizens?

  57. AndrewShaw says:

    As ShakyShot brings up, when opinion leaders from the northeast, an area that is highly regulated, speak on these issues they overlook the vast geography of the US where guns are not just allowed by permit. It is the same problem in crime-TV and movies where guns are frequently referred to as un-registered. Since we don’t all live in NYC, permission is not required, except for the typical felons, concealed, etc.

    “All the illegal guns” That’s the future, not now. When this next round of gun control comes online, we find out what a violent society with unreal amounts of illegal guns look like.

    The difference, and answer to the perplexing question, is the US love of illegal drugs, and our parallel love of drug prohibition. As that evolves, perhaps violence will be reduced, if women voters will allow it.

  58. wally says:

    Since gun deaths are generally in proportion to gun ownership when measured state-by-start in the US, I regard that as proof that increased gun ownership leads to increased gun deaths.
    I think the reason is simple and obvious: humans everywhere have emotions and conflicts and problems… but having a deadly weapon easily at hand enables those problems to escalate to deadly violence. The solution is equally obvious… to those who choose to be rational about it.
    It really disturbs me how often, in conversations about gun control, gun owners will make threats – veiled or direct – about resorting to violence to keep their “rights”. Things like “If it came down to an argument between people with guns and people without, we know who’d win. Ha-ha”. That tells me that guns are already in the wrong hands; hands that are dangerous to all of us.

  59. Takeyourfinger says:

    Certain segments of our population are like Europe, and certain segments like South America, etc., so the aggregate data is somewhere in-between.

  60. But we do not have more suicides than other nations, that foes not explain this.

    Japan has lots more (23.8 per 100k people) as does Finland (16.8), South Africa (15.4), Sweden (15.3), France (15.0), New Zealand (13.2) and others.

    The United States has 12.0 per 100k.

    Thats more than Norway, Denmark, Ireland, Canada, Switzerland, Singapore, Australia, Germany, Spain and Israel

  61. ggpoor says:

    THANK YOU (all of you!) I’ve followed this blog for some time. And I enjoy all the investment news and comments. BUT, this edition regarding gun control is fantastic! As an elected offical, I do come in contact with some of the issues discussed here. I really appreciate all the commenters. I’ve copied many of the references to use later. Thanks again.
    Good Guy Poor

  62. SAT9 says:

    PlanadaBob says”Ask Australians who were adults when guns were taken out of the hands of citizens. Home invasions and robberies (with knives) rose sharply.” As an Australian, I can assure you that was not the case in any statistically significant sense. The 1996 gun controls have substantially reduced deaths by firearms and, I believe, a reduction in the homicide rate. The laws were introduced following the Port Arthur massacre and no such event has occurred in Australia since. Incidentally the laws were introduced by George W’s conservative mate John Howard and required political courage but were supported by the majority of Australians.

  63. sellstop says:

    I think that there are many reasons why the U.S. is the leader in gun related violence. Availability, nonregulation, poverty and wealth gap, racial issues, young independant nationhood, etc…..

    The real question, IMHO, is why haven’t we changed in so long? And I think the answer to that is the same reason that taxes are lower for the rich, why the banks got bailed out, why the white collar crooks get off lightly, why we expect low interest rates as a birthright, why Mr. Greenspan was a hero, and why we don’t have a national health care plan despite spending more than the rest of the world on healthcare. Our government is at the mercy of big money lobbists that use wedge issues to distract the commoners from issues that contribute to the quality of life. Can you think of an issue that is more emotional than defending the 2nd Amendment in the land of the brave and the home of the free? Except gays in the military and banning Christ from Christmas?


  64. AtlasRocked says:

    Over half the killings are black offenders, while they are only 14% of population.

    I bet most of those are drug related. Let folks eat what they want to eat. Shut down the FDA, leave it as a state power to regulate food standards. The federal gov’t appears to be using the FDA to protect huge industry interests any way.

  65. CB says:

    Further pondering the gun discussion I am struck by this troubling thought:
    A major percentage of US culture, GDP, manufacturing, marketing, time and imagination is directed towards some form of:
    1. providing arms
    2. creating/consuming various types of violence as entertainment. 
    That combination is easily the largest US export and global projection of power, influence and ideas as a society. 
    Is this really the best we can achieve with all our resources, technology and imagination?
    For more localized statistics:

    Total Gun-Related Deaths
    (per 100,000 people)
     New Orleans = 69.1
    (homicides only = 62)  
    Note that New Orleans also has the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world. 
    For African-Americans from New Orleans, one in 14 is in prison, and one out of seven is either in prison, on parole, or on probation.

    For-profit prisons and gun sales
    are growth industries.

    Our violent culture is based upon these types of socio-economic incentives. I feel it’s not just the guns – it’s the general societal attitude.

  66. wally says:

    “Can you think of an issue that is more emotional than defending the 2nd Amendment”
    No, it ranks right up near the top. The fantasy is that people are going to defend their homes (though guns are often used against their owners) or are going to defend against “government”, whatever that is supposed to mean.
    (Meanwhile, of course, encroachment by government happens in areas like the TSA searches, internet monitoring… areas where protecting yourself with a gun is a ludicrous idea).
    There’s a ton of emotion involved, like their manhood is threatened or something.

  67. wally says:

    “I feel it’s not just the guns – it’s the general societal attitude.”

    Would that societal attitude change if we got rid of guns?

  68. scottinnj says:

    Here are a couple of data points on the US vs other OECE countries:

    1) Rape in the US (per capita) are high but in line with countries like England, New Zealand and Belgium.
    2)Robbery is again high but fewer than in England or France and comparable to say Italy.
    3) On Assaults the US is very low on the list – much lower than England and lower than France
    4) The US has 717 robberies per 100k, 986 in England and 611 in Canada

    In short for crimes other than intentional homicide, where our rate is much higher than other countries our rates for other types of violent crime are in most cases within one standard deviation of the mean. The data suggests that we are not particularly more or less prone to violent crime, but we are much more likely to commit homicide.

    Though to be sure, correlation does not imply causality. Is our homicide rate high because we have more guns, or our we actually more prone to violence, but less likely to commit assault or burglary because those we may commit such crimes on may be carrying guns, so these are less likely to occur. I have a supposition, but would be interested in hard data on which is the right way to think about it (both theories are not, actually, mutually incompatible).

  69. calvit64 says:

    Think of the US as a set of first world and third world countries and the results are not as perplexing. Or perhaps an extremely rich third world country.

  70. Frilton Miedman says:

    Randlepmurphy Says:
    December 26th, 2012 at 9:42 pm
    “Being a wage slave to Uncle Sam …..We will now be bludgened to the point of exhaustion with emotional propaganda. The mindless hyperbole and inability to put thoughts into a cogent paragraph …..”


    So, you’re saying….emotionally hyperbolic, over-narrated, verbose accusational rants are annoying?

    I especially hate it when they make a politically partisan rant, using unrelated material like “Obamacare” or “Socialism” in their best Bill O impersonation..

    We need us a “Foxorcism”.

  71. sellstop says:

    Thanks for starting this thread. You’ve got me going now!

    Here is an interesting link:

  72. Frilton Miedman says:

    Barry Ritholtz Says:
    December 26th, 2012 at 11:38 pm
    Do we have more suicides than other nations, and if so why is that?


    Not really -

  73. Fred C Dobbs says:

    I don’t see any comparisons between law enforcement in the US and other nations. The US has more prisoners proportionally than other nations. Does this mean we are better at catching and convicting criminals than other nations or does it mean they are more law-abiding? If more law-abiding, is it because they punish while the US rehabilitates? The US population is more diverse than other homogeneous nations. Is the difference in crime rates due to diversity or homogeneity? Media in the US sells advertising and pays its bills by offering a constant line of freak shows, but the Media in many nations is careful to not incite changes in behavior. Does these Media differences account for the crime rate differences? Other nations put whackos behind bars, in funny farms, but the US does not. Is this the reason for higher US crime rates? Personally, I think a major contribution to gun crime in the US is due to law enforcement and rehabilitation. A Cop doesn’t want to patrol crime-infested areas to closely in case it might leave his wife a widow and his children fatherless, especially when, without a college education, he can retire with a pension for life before he reaches 5o years of age. We need more punishment deterence, enough to empty the prisons, and put the guards and psychiatrists out of work.

  74. pdzxc says:

    I have been wondering the same thing recently – is it just the guns and the 2nd amendment, as it is currently interpreted, or is there something more to it? Two books I read long ago come to mind as a potential explanation:

    1. The Sot Weed Factor by John Barth, a great book (historical fiction) in which Barth paints the early settlers of North America as a bunch of miscreants, pirates, people on the make, fugitives, and criminals (that’s my recall anyway).
    2. Albion’s Seed by David Hackett Fischer, where he describes 4 early waves of immigration from England and the constancy of the culture each brought with them. One of the waves was from the North England borderlands, where an anarchic dystopia existed for hundreds of years prior a mass migration to America in the eighteenth century. These lands were lawless borderlands between North England (Scotland) and England where warlords fought each other for centuries, and each person learned to look out for him or herself among people who shot first and asked questions later. These people first settled in the mountains west of the coastal areas that were settled by earlier waves of Quakers, Puritans, and Virginia gentry. One of the folkways they brought with them was prideful independence, feuding, fighting with each other and settling scores (e.g. the Hatfields and the McCoys). Their progeny have flourished in the US and many of their “folkways” (constituents of their culture) as Hackett Fischer calls them, including prideful independence, can be seen today in the South and West. So maybe we came by our violent lawless ways honestly. I am not making a political statement here for or against gun control, just offering a possible explanation why our country is so much more violent than other comparable countries.

  75. bobmitchell says:

    Insurance? Seriously? Put another, well funded industry with a track record of “increasing sales” at the helm? Already we have PE neck deep in the gun business, why not add another rentier? AIG FP is already looking at CDS on guns used in massacres. As usual, premiums will be used to pay execs, and gov is left with the responsibility of payout in the event of a “claim”.


    Another under-reported element to the Newtown massacre involves the Bushmaster assault weapon. While most attention has focused on the weapon itself and whether or not it should be banned, surprisingly little has been written about the private equity firm, Cerberus Capital, that currently owns Bushmaster. I say “currently” because the firm is vowing to sell Bushmaster, having suddenly been struck with a conscience. (By coincidence, Martin Feinberg, the father of Cerberus’ founder, lives in Newtown. He told Bloomberg that the shooting was “devastating” and “horrendous, truly horrendous.” That has to make for awkward dinner table conversation this Christmas.)

    Cerberus is the sociopathic embodiment of everything wrong and fucked up with our financialized economy — and, until recently, it didn’t even try to hide this fact. For one thing, Cerberus is named itself after the mythical three-headed watchdog-monster with a serpent’s tail that guarded the gates of Hell (Hades), and devoured anyone who tried to escape. That’s what we journalists are supposed to call a “red flag.”

  76. louis says:

    Drugs , the culture of impressing everyone, look at your industry BR. No one is happy with what they have, look at Corzine. It’s an addiction and spiritual issue. Look back at the guys in your high school that didn’t have it, we’re part of the outsiders, they don’t stand a chance in the notice me culture. Add on a pile of psychotropic meds , meth, coke, and Daddy’s liquor cabinet and we have time bombs everywhere. And if they get in to Harvard and go work on Wall Street we all get to feel their sickness.

  77. grywlfbg says:

    Yep, drugs, drugs, drugs. Legalize drugs and the number of gun deaths would drop like a stone. It also explains the race and socio-economic aspects of the numbers as well.

    Also, for the record, the massacre in Australia that kicked off the gun ban was perpetrated by a mad man with a bolt-action rifle, a gun that was and still is legal to own in Australia.

    Further, the US is one of the few developed nations that was founded through violent revolt and have the right to keep and bare arms enshrined in its constitution. Every kid in school is taught about the Revolutionary War and how regular men and women took up arms against an oppressive government. We still live that to this day. Our Founding Fathers didn’t trust government and so we don’t either. They wrote the second amendment to keep government at bay. And for this purpose we must have access to similar weapons as that of the government in we are to effect any kind of resistance.

    Finally, it’s quite hypocritical for people like Obama, Bloomberg, and Feinstein to tell everyone to turn in their guns when they are surrounded by people armed w/ state of the art weaponry. Heck Feinstein got a concealed carry permit when she felt “threatened”: I seem to recall something along the lines of… We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. Those people are no more important than myself and my family. Therefore I should be allowed to protect myself too.

  78. shteeeeeve says:

    Yea, you’re probably gonna have a lower rate of deaths by guns in countries that have disarmed their citizens. Didn’t seem to stop that guy from stabbing 22 kids to death, though…. Let’s see your stats on acid throwing too while you’re at it.

  79. SecondLook says:

    One consideration: We are a warrior culture, with all that implies about how we see ourselves and behave.

    Raised eyebrows at that notion? Think about it. We’ve gone to war every decade but one (the 1930′s) with someone over the past 216 years. Frequently, more than one conflict per decade. The very large majority of those we started, for what we felt was good and sufficient reasons, for all wars are fought that way. Some of those wars were minor events, forgotten for the most part, but in each generation since Independence, there has been a conflict that involved relatively large numbers of Americans. A steady diet of war tends to imbue a culture with a martial attitude – conflict resolution by violence. The brave warrior defending his home, his people with his rifle and his gun, or inflicting sharp justice on the enemy within…

    The famous quote attributed to Robert E. Lee: “It is well that war is so terrible–we would grow too fond of it!” May be true for some who have walked on blood soaked ground, but our history suggests that in general we really are fond of war. It’s one of our hypocrisies that we pretend otherwise.

    It’s certainly not the only factor, but I would suggest that our history of organized violence does flow into our personal culture.

    Before anyone points out that there are other nations that have a history of often wars. Look up the data, among Western societies we lead by far and away the number of times we’ve sent young men in harms way. It’s our heritage, starting long before we were a major player on the world’s stage…

  80. jasons says:

    A slow day at work today, so I figured I summarize the data posted by others. I stripped out the suicides from the homicides and broke it out by gun/non-gun. Overall, the US is about average in terms of suicide rates for developed countries. We’re on par with Canada, ahead of Germany, and behind France and Japan. However, half of Americans set on offing themselves use a gun, compared to much smaller numbers than in other countries. Gun control wouldn’t seem to be useful here, because where there’s a will, there’s a way.

    When it comes to homicides, there seems to be 1 to 2 people per 100,000 in most developed countries who kill someone without the assistance of a gun, the US included. However, where we really stand out is in gun-related homicides: 3.7 per 100k compared to 0.8 for Canada, 0.2 for France, and 0.1 for Germany. And, as posted by others, most of the violence seems to be concentrated in poor urban centers. Gun control may help here a bit, but to me the miserable (and often short) lives led by the young men in these areas is the symptom of a social problem, not a legal issue. The next step would be to analyze similar demographic cohorts in different countries and see if they are less violent or simply less likely to use guns and therefore less likely to kill one another.

    If I lived in a country where everyone was packing for protection, I would consider it the end of civil society. However, so far the data does not suggest that collectively we are a bunch of wild eyed lunatics compared to our peer countries. Rather, we have a problem with inner city violence, which has been the case since my parents fled the city for the burbs in the 60′s.

  81. Tulips says:

    My opinion: this has nothing to do with guns, it has everything to do with the people that we have become. The powers that be have done all that they can to destroy morals and values and to make people think that they are not responsible for their own actions.

    I have no statistics to back me up; however, I currently am doing some volunteer work at a local high school. The group I work with is at-risk teenage males. Recently, we asked who of the dozen in the room had a father at home — only one of the twelve had a father at home. That is so sad. Again, I have no statistics but I suspect that the lack of men owning up to their parental responsibilities is a major issue.

  82. Tulips says:

    Oh and the idea of insurance?
    The banksters must be frothing at the mouths on that thought… yet another way to fleece the public. No thank you.

  83. Pantmaker says:

    Crazy white guys with “high capacity” magazines should continue to be on our list of potential gun homicide/robbery/assault offenders. While they currently occupy a rather large percentage of the media’s attention they will continue to represent a relatively small percentage of the actual crime total.

    Look no further than Washington DC an accurate example of the gun homicide/robbery/assault trends in this country. DC has a complete ban on “assault rifles” and some of the strictest gun restriction laws in the nation.

    Just the facts, Ma’am.

  84. Pantmaker

    Lots of these gun laws come AFTER a city experiences a big surge in crime — its a reaction to crime, and of course it isnt a magic bullet. Plus, Local gun bans don’t work when you can cross a border and buy whatever you want.

  85. pintelho says:

    The other thing regulated about cars is the cost of the gas that makes it go. I think any discussion on gun regulation without a complimentary discussion on ammo regulation is a miopic one.

  86. drtomaso says:

    Appeals to cultural differences really don’t impress me: take Japan for example. Their pop culture is nearly identical to our own- same music, same movies, same video games- possibly even more violent in that realm- yet their gun deaths per capita are infinitesimally small.

    While I do acknowledge the stats that break our gun homicides down by race, I’d like to caution people from making this a “culture/values” judgement- this speaks much more to economic differences and our idiotic “war on drugs” than anything else. I’m also wary of breaking down our rates of homicides vs suicides. As noted often above, our suicide rate is not that much different than the rest of the world.

    I’d like to suggest another take on the clear correlation between gun ownership and violent death by fire arm: homicide and suicide are often acts of passion, done in the heat of the moment in a fit of rage or depression, and access to firearms both increases the likelihood that those passions will be acted upon, and increases the likelihood that the result will be a fatality. In reading up on Israel’s gun control policies, I read that the military had begun to require soldiers (there is a compulsory draft in Israel) to leave their weapons on base when off duty rotation- this was done to combat a surge of “weekend suicides” in which soldiers apparently were using their service weapons to kill themselves- they found people were far less likely to act on a suicidal impulse if they didn’t have ready access to a firearm. I believe this probably holds true for homicides as well- its much easier to act on a fit of homicidal rage when you have ready access to a firearm.

  87. SecondLook says:

    I thought I would pass along, for informational purposes the FBI’s summary of violent crime (those crimes which involve force or threat of force).


    In 2011, an estimated 1,203,564 violent crimes occurred nationwide, a decrease of 3.8 percent from the 2010 estimate.
    When considering 5- and 10-year trends, the 2011 estimated violent crime total was 15.4 percent below the 2007 level and 15.5 percent below the 2002 level.
    There were an estimated 386.3 violent crimes per 100,000 inhabitants in 2011.
    Aggravated assaults accounted for the highest number of violent crimes reported to law enforcement at 62.4 percent. Robbery comprised 29.4 percent of violent crimes, forcible rape accounted for 6.9 percent, and murder accounted for 1.2 percent of estimated violent crimes in 2011.
    Information collected regarding type of weapon showed that firearms were used in 67.7 percent of the nation’s murders, 41.3 percent of robberies, and 21.2 percent of aggravated assaults. (Weapons data are not collected for forcible rape.)

    For murder, firearms were used 67.7% of the time.
    For robberies: 39.25%
    For assaults: 43.77%

    We tend to focus on murder, or attempted murder, when discussing guns – we shouldn’t overlook all the other circumstances in which those weapons are used.

  88. honeybadger says:

    In: Kawachi, I., Kennedy, B. P., & Wilkinson, R. G. (1999). Crime: social disorganization and relative deprivation. Social science & medicine (1982), 48(6), 719–31.

    The authors argue that two sets of social characteristics influence crime levels: income inequality, and social cohesiveness. They back the study with state-level data from the USA.

    But we have two issues here. One is gun violence in general, which seems to be mostly a problem of poverty (exaberated by the war on drugs). The other is the massacre event.

    I’m not at all sure what explains that, or what can be done about it.

  89. constantnormal says:

    A fine thread, one of the more rational ones I’ve seen on this topic, which speaks well to the data-centric bias that this blog purports to follow. Along those lines, is anyone aware of any sort of multivariate analysis being performed of the wealth of national and international data to try and model factors that seem to have a positive correlation to gun deaths? I’m particularly interested in things like gun ownership, multiple gun ownership, GINI values, demographic factors (i.e., age of the murderers), and other issues that seem to be related and would have some sort of correlative value (perhaps I should toss in sex and marital status as well, maybe even toss in seemingly unrelated factors such as GMO foodstuffs and alcohol consumption (which I personally believe to be unrelated)). There was one (at least) data analysis that implicated religiosity as having a positive correlation, which might well be the case, as confusing one’s own inner demons with “the will of God” is a short cut to no limits on one’s behavior. Better analysis, and better data are needed here.

    It seems to me that such a study would go a long way toward dispelling a lot of the myths in this area, and might even be highly predictive of specific individuals at risk of becoming part of the growing body of statistical data in our national problem.

    An additional question, and one that I have not seen raised elsewhere (admittedly, i get turned off by clueless unthinking partisan rants, and thus exit a lot of “discussion” forums without reading much of the emotional posts. Life is too short to waste on such drivel), is that of non-gun violence … i.e, when we exclude violent acts involving guns, is the US still an outlier nation when compared to the other (so-called) developed nations?

    If we are not, that would seem to eliminate the cultural arguments, and make this a purely gun ownership issue.

    But if we are still deviating from the norms of our “peers”, then either our peerage is suspect (i.e., we fit better with more violent less-developed nations, and are merely a nation of wealthy thugs), or some other factors are involved here … Which takes me back to the need for some competent multivariate analysis/modeling of the data …

  90. competitionguy says:

    Mr Ritholtz,
    The reason you are perplexed is that you have forgotten to ask one question you usually ask – am I even looking at this right. You said you believe keeping a gun at home is a right. Have you asked whether this belief in such a right is common to these other countries? I bet it is not. I live in Australia, and there is no widespread belief that such a right exists. One has been written into your constitution, and in the circumstances of your founding, this makes sense. But a few generations have passed since this had any relevance. If it had been given up, law and order would have been effectively executed by the state. But this chance has passed. And I think there will never be effective gun control as long as the state remains powerless to step in and provide security to the broad population. But make no mistake, the belief in this right is how it all started.

  91. CPT Ethanolic says:

    Why does everyone ignore the sacred cow in the room? The WAR on drugs. We’ve created a multi-billion $$ industry within our inner cities (where jobs are becoming more scarce so the allure of the drug trade more appealing) that is ruled/controlled by violence. We have police armed as well as the military. If you declare WAR within your population, don’t be surprised when violence escalates. Take a look at Mexico/South America and see what the drug wars have done there. If you want to reduce gun violence, stop this 40 years of idiocy that is the war on drugs.

  92. honeybadger says:

    Thinking a bit more, comparing our national response to two recent events.
    1) a tragic shooting in Conneticut
    2) a woman jailed for life because her boyfriend stored crack in her house.

    One launches a major national debate about gun control, the other passes in silence. Which is worse, the lone gunman, or the psychotic state which attacks its own people?

    How much violence and distruction comes from the second? I don’t want to take away from the tragedy of the first, but in perspective, our insane “war on drugs” causes much, much more harm to our society, not to mention the frequency of massacres south of our border. And all for no social benefit whatsoever.

    You want to reduce violence in America? How about ending a war ON OUR OWN PEOPLE!!

  93. CPT Ethanolic says:

    And to follow up on my own and honeybadger’s comments –

    We also have a multi-billion $$ private prison industry financially incentivized to maintain the highest prison population possible. We imprison more of our population than current China or the former Soviet union. We take young kids, put them in prison for minor drug offenses, then are shocked when they turn to crime after leaving jail without ever acknowledging that the chances of them getting a job in the already slim market is almost zero with a felony conviction on their record. What else do they have besides crime to survive? This then becomes a viscous cycle of drugs/prison/violence. Prison is controlled by violence and these kids learn this. They then carry this lesson back to the streets and where we have a drug industry controlled by the most violent.

    It boggles my mind that in neither this conversation nor the conversations on our debt/deficit, the war on drugs ever comes up. We’d rather blame video games and/or welfare recipients vs face the very real problems in our society that we’ve created.

  94. V says:

    I think the US finds itself in a positive feedback loop, more killings, leads to more gun sales, more killings etc
    and it certainly doesn’t help that mental health care is non existant in many communities, which in part is related to drug related issues.

    I’m not sure if ‘culture’ is adequate explanation, after all Switzerland has similar although not exactly identical history with regard to allowing an ‘armed citizenary’. Although perhaps in their case the melding of army conscription combined with provision of a govt issued weapon instils more responsibility from a young age, which isn’t found in a gun toting hick or steetgang.

    And @Tulips makes some good points.

    Such a complex issue, but how do you solve it, when even your modest gun registration idea would be shouted down like you are the totalitarian devil incarnate?
    I think people should also challenge the ‘more guns’ is the answer narrative, unless you are in your own home, a gun is not necessarily likely to be of use for defence, particularly in so many cases where the gunman comes out of nowhere. The idea of armed police in schools is daft, and has actually failed to prevent school shootings in the past.
    What would the NRA have people do? – be on armed guard 24/7, in the convenience store, at the movies, in the public restroom, cafe.
    Even if this were acheivable what sort of society would it be to live in?
    This is the question that is overlooked

  95. rbd001 says:

    It is both a gun and a mental health issue. If I lived in rural Texas in a county with few people and fewer law policemen, I would want to a gun for self protection. But there is a difference between the right to have a gun and the need to have it registered. Countries such as Israel which have wide availability of guns also have socialized medicine, where the sick get care. That may be the missing link.

    In any event, not only should guns be required be registered, there should be insurance requirements (similar to a car) as well as annual usage fees for the expenses that the guns cost society. We could hire people to administer the program (job creation) and pay for better mental health care for all. Would everyone want a gun if it cost $1,000 per year to own one?

  96. Lukey says:

    I would like to go on record as supporting Barry in his effort to broaden the horizons on this blog any way he sees fit. I like the variety – it’s the spice of life. It is a left leaning blog and seems to attract more of the leftist persuasion – which if you think about it ain’t all that hard to figure out. Sometimes I chafe at the level of censorship but I realize it’s Barry’s blog and he gets to post (or not post) whatever he decides is relevant. I can live with that.

    As for the subject at hand, I suspect it is some of guns being too easy to obtain and some of the cultural/racial differences between us and those other countries (as has been suggested by others). As a gun owner, I would be fine with Barry’s suggestion that guns be treated as auto’s, licensed and insured. And I think all hunters should have to undergo specific training with periodic testing to get a license to hunt, which should be requisite for taking any long gun out of the house and probably wouldn’t mind that also being a condition of getting a permit to carry, which should be necessary to take any handgun out of the house. Once a gun comes into your house it should be a crime to take it out of the house unless you have a hunting license or a permit to carry. Does that solve the problem? Probably not. But I’m not crazy about removing completely the right to own guns just because a very small minority of the population abuses it. I was perfectly fine under the prior assault weapon ban and probably wouldn’t object to reinstating it.

  97. dbrodess says:

    jasons –

    Good analysis. Agree that many suicides would be successful with other weapons; but many wouldn’t — guns are very efficient. Also agree that many of the gun murders are tied to crime and, more specifically, the drug trade and that there is little evidence that many of these murders would also occur; but again, many wouldn’t.

    While incidents like Newtown are troubling, the thing that troubles me more is the 30 people/day that are shot and killed outside of mass shootings.

    Limiting (or eliminating) high cap magazines and semi-automatic weapons would significantly limit the mass shootings. But the one-on-one crimes and the one-on-family and/or acquaintances shootings are much more difficult. Full registration, annual fees and training, background checks and the elimination of ridiculous “gun shows” (notice i didn’t say loophole… just eliminate unregulated gun shows) may, overtime bring these more prevalent shootings. But that’s not a “fix it tomorrow” pixie dust solution set. It will take rational discussion and cooperation at all levels of society and government. That’s why i’m pretty sure it won’t happen.

  98. classicalmom says:

    This paper shows interesting statistics I haven’t seen elsewhere on this thread:

    As a mother of teenagers who attend an urban public high school, I can anecdoctally tell you that the gun use (and deaths) there are concentrated in the African American population.