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


Is the U.S. Gun Homicide Rate Really That High?

dead policeman Honduras
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 2017, the latest year statistics were available, 15,129 people were killed by murder in the United States — 10,982 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 South American nation of Brazil, which had more than 63,000 murders in 2017. And Mexico and South Africa also had higher murder rates than the U.S. in 2017. 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.