10 Big Questions in the U.S. Gun Control Debate

Is the U.S. Gun Homicide Rate Really That High?
Forensic personnel examine the corpse of a police officer murdered presumably by gangsters to steal his handgun, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras on Dec. 5, 2012. ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images

In 2014, the latest year statistics were available, 11,961 people were killed by murder in the United States — 8, 214 were by firearm [source: FBI]. Whether that rate seems high to you depends upon your perspective. The U.S. isn't the country with the most gun murders, by any stretch — that would be the tiny Central American nation of Honduras, which had 74.6 gun killings per 100,000 people in 2014. And there are a bunch of other countries with higher rates than the U.S., such as El Salvador, Venezuela, Jamaica and South Africa [source: Keng Kuek Ser]. But those places tend to be developing countries where law and order is weak, or places with political unrest. Compared to other industrialized democracies, the U.S. gun homicide rate is through the roof. It's more than 12 times the rate in Italy, seven times that of Canada and about 30 times the gun homicide rate in Great Britain or France [source: Fox].

So here's another question: Would the crime rate in the U.S. be lower if there were fewer guns available? Again it depends on which study you consult. Burglary and assault rates were higher in Britain in 2012 than in the U.S., but homicide rates were much lower [source: Civitas Crime]. The U.N. Global Study on Homicide (by any weapon) put the British homicide rate at 1.2 per 100,000 while the U.S. rate was 4.6 per 100,000 [source: UNODC]. "While the specific relationship between firearm availability and homicide is complex, it appears that a vicious circle connects firearm availability and higher homicide levels," the study explains.