International and domestic gun control statistics

In this article I will explain why claiming stricter gun control laws will lower crime rates is just as inaccurate as saying stricter gun control laws will allow crime rates to increase.  It's neither; gun control laws have no effect on crime rates.  I'll prove this through both international and domestic statistical analysis.  I will also explain why using only the UK as an example of why US gun laws are the problem is analytically deceitful.

If you really care about reducing the murder rate of the United States, gun laws might be one of the most ineffective ways to approach the problem.

International Statistics:

If we’re going to compare ourselves to other countries like the UK, let’s take a broader look.  Here’s a list of murder rates by country compiled by the UN:


Country Murder Rates

Country Murder Rate
Honduras 91.6
El Salvador 69.2
Côte d'Ivoire 56.9
Jamaica 52.2
Venezuela 45.1
Belize 41.4
... ...
USA 4.2

The countries with the 5 highest murder rates (Honduras, El Salvador, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, and Venezuela) all have stricter gun control laws than the US, and all have murder rates over 10 times higher than the US.  In Venezuela they’re only allowed to own 22s, yet their murder rate is over 10 times higher than ours (Chavez has banned guns in 2012 1).  All of them require a license to buy a gun, which isn't mandated in the US.  All of them require records to be saved, which isn't mandated in the US.   In fact, almost every country higher than us on the murder rate list has stricter gun laws than us 2.

Then we move into more ‘civilized’ countries.  The Bahamas has a murder rate over 6 times higher than ours, and has stricter gun laws.  Russia has a murder rate more than double ours, yet handguns and some semi-automatic weapons are banned.

Then we get to the bottom of the list; countries with the lowest murder rate.  Near the bottom you'll find the same type of gun control laws that are found at the top of the list, some even have complete gun bans.  There are two countries with a 0% murder rate… One has strict gun laws, the other allows guns including handguns.  Switzerland has one of the lowest crime rates in the world, while having one of the highest gun ownership rates in the world 3.  They too have a right to bear arms guaranteed by law.  Serbia has the 2nd highest guns per capita rate in the world, yet a murder rate the same as the UK.  Norway has a high gun per capita rate, gun laws similar to the US, yet is tied for the 6th lowest murder rate.

Gun Ownership Rate by Country

Country Guns per 100
United States 88.8
Serbia 58.2
Yemen 54.8
Switzerland 45.7
... ...
Norway 31.3
... ...
Venezuela 10.7
Jamaica 8.1
Honduras 6.2
El Salvador 5.8
Côte d'Ivoire 2.4

You'll notice that the countries with the highest murder rates have low gun ownership rates.


So is there a trend we can get from the data?  The top of the UN murder rate list is probably due to lawlessness, corrupt governments, lack of law enforcement, and organized crime (sometimes allowed by the corrupt govt).  I don't believe anyone would say more gun laws in those types of countries would help.  But there are many countries just as civil as us, with stricter gun control laws, with the same or higher murder rates.  Norway, mentioned above for high gun ownership and low crime rates, was home of the 2011 island attack, which claimed 77 lives.  Some would say the United States has the least strict gun control laws in the entire world.  I challenge gun control advocates to explain why half of the world's countries have murder rates higher than ours.  I also welcome those who claim gun control will increase crime to explain why half of the world has lower murder rates than ours.  With murder rates and gun control strictness being all over the spectrum, any attempt to correlate the two is incorrect and deceitful.  So the trend? As far as international gun control strictness and murder rates... there doesn't appear to be one.

While I claim that there is no correlation between gun control laws and murder rates, I do want to point out that using the UK to lambast the US gun policies might not be the best idea.  Below is a graph which shows homicide rates through the years.  While their murder rate is lower than ours, their murder rate has gone up since enacting their strict gun laws which the media seems to be praising recently.


Large anomalies unrelated to guns (shown in pink):
2000: 58 Chinese people suffocated to death in a shipping container en route to the UK

2002: 172 homicides reported when Dr. Harold Shipman was exposed for killing his patients

2003: 20 cockle pickers drowned resulting in manslaughter charges

2005: 52 people were killed in the July 7th London subway/bus bombings 4

From 1946 - 2011:

  • Average number of UK murders per year before gun control: 321 5
  • Average number of UK murders per year after gun control:  601
  • That's an 87% increase

Domestic Statistics:

If you want to look at statistics domestically you’ll find that while gun ownership has increased over the past few decades, violent crime has decreased.  Let's look at some cities which have strict gun laws.

Raw data provided by the FBI:

City Murders From Guns % from Guns % of US tot % of US pop Source
Philadelphia 324 265 82% 3.09% .49% 6
New York 515 314 61% 3.66% 2.62% 7
Baltimore 197 150 76% 1.75% .20% 8
Washington D.C. 109 78 72% .91% .20% 9
Chicago 433 361 83% 4.21% .86% 10
1922 1168


2011 total US murders: 12,664
2011 US gun murders: 8,583 11
murders in gun control cities / murder total: 15.12%
gun murders in gun control cities / gun murder total: 13.61%

So the above mentioned cities which have very strict gun laws (or had gun bans) have 13.61% of gun murders but only 4.46% of the US population.  The above figures reveal another reason why the US/UK argument is flawed.  The current argument uses the US gun murder rate as a whole, which also includes the 22% of gun murders that take place in areas with strict gun laws like the UK.  You can't have your cake and eat it too.  While the gun murder rate in the US would still be higher, I'm just pointing out why the argument has a basic flaw at it's core.
Let's look a little deeper into the 8583 gun murder figure:

  • Total US Gun murders in 2011: 8583
  • Murders during felonies: 1313
  • Murders from gang violence: 619

That means that 22.51% of gun murders in the US happen during felonies or gang violence 11.  The number could be higher but the FBI has 3586 uncategorized gun murders.  Would gun control prevent felons and gang members from using guns?


What effect has gun control had in the US?

In 1976 Washington D.C. passed a law which banned handguns and required all other firearms to be stored either disassembled or trigger locked.  The graph below shows homicides per year 13


Obviously, banning handguns didn't help their murder rate at all.  The massive increase of homicides in the 80s and 90s has been attributed to the 'crack epidemic'.
Let's take a look at Chicago 14:

As you can see, Chicago had the same spike in murders, even though they banned handguns.

Murders with handguns in Chicago went up after their ban.


California and Texas are on opposite ends of the gun law strictness spectrum.  California had 1,220 gun murders last year; 14% of the nation's total and has 12% of the nation's population.  Texas had 699 gun murders last year; 8% of the nation's total and has 8% of the nation's population.  Each is relatively proportional to population.

The Brady Campaign ranks the states according to gun law strictness; 50 being not strict.  According to the FBI, Louisiana has the highest murder rate in the US, and according to the Brady Campaign is tied for 47th out of 50 for gun control strictness with the score of 2 out of 100 possible points 15.  On the other hand, North Dakota is also tied for 47th in gun control strictness, but as the 4th lowest murder rate.  Utah received the worst possible score given by the Brady Campaign, a 0 out of 100, yet they have the 5th lowest murder rate in the country. 16 17



Assault Weapons Ban:

The legislation that is being proposed right now is renewing the federal assault weapons ban.  Our worst school killing in history was in 1927 where 44 people were killed and 58 wounded.  The sleazeball didn’t use a gun at all.  The Columbine shooting happened during the previous federal assault weapons ban (1994-2004), and no assault rifles were used.  Of the 4 weapons and 16 magazines that were used, only 2 of the magazines would have been banned.  One of the handguns could have possibly been banned depending on the specific model.  California which currently has the strictest gun laws, including an assault weapons ban, had 14% of the nation's gun murders as mentioned above.  In Connecticut, where the school shooting took place last week, there is a current assault weapons ban.

It's also important to note that the 'assault weapon' term is an invention of modern media.  It relates to the military cosmetic characteristics of a gun instead of it's functionality.  Below are 2 Rugar mini-14s.  One is the ranch model, the other is the tactical model.  Both are the same base gun, but the tactical gun is cosmetically different.

Ruger Mini-14 Rancher

Ruger Mini-14 Tactical

Under an 'assault weapon' ban, the tactical model would be banned while the hunting model wouldn't, but they're both the same gun and accept the same magazines.  Rifles actually make up a very small proportion of gun crimes.  According to the FBI, there were 323 murders from rifles in 2011 18.  In comparison, there were 1694 knife murders (or other cutting tools), 496 blunt murders (baseball bats, hammers, etc), and 726 murders by using hands, fists, and feet.

There were 524% more murders with knives than rifles.  An 'assault rifle' ban would be as logical as allowing knives with wooden handles but banning black handled knives.  There were 154% more murders with baseball bats than rifles.  Should baseball bats be illegal to own unless used for sport?

Source of guns

So where do the guns come from that commit our 8535 gun murders?  The Bureau of Justice Statistics revealed in 2001 that less than 1% of firearm offenders acquired their weapons at gun shows  19.  In a study conducted on prison inmates in 1991, the Department of Justice reported that 9% of guns used in crimes were stolen, 29% were bought on the black market or through a drug dealer, and 31% were bought from a friend or family member 20.  80% of the inmates had previous convictions, making a good portion of the purchases from friends/family illegal straw purchases.  This means 70% of the guns criminals used were acquired in illegal or questionable means.  This is one reason why gun control laws have little affect on murder and crime outcomes.


The study was conducted again in 1997, after the federal assault weapons ban went into effect: 21

Source of Guns

Retail store 8.3%
Pawnshop 3.8%
Flea market 1.0%
Gun show 0.7%
Friends or family 39.6%
Street/illegal source 39.2%

After the ban went into effect, guns acquired through illegal or questionable means increased from 70% to 80%.


So what can we glean from our domestic numbers?  I've shown how California and Texas have opposite gun laws yet both have proportional gun murders.  I've pointed out major cities where strict gun laws and bans are in effect, yet they still have high murder rates.  You can look at other large cities like Detroit where there are no gun bans and find high violent crime and gun murders. in 2011 Detroit had 344 murders.  Finding what % of those were gun related is proving difficult, but a few local newspapers published the 80% figure.  That would put it in the same range as the other urban areas with gun bans and restrictions listed in the table above.  So looking at different areas of the country over the same time period shows there is no effect of gun control laws on gun murders.  When you look at gun murders as a function of time, gun control laws don't prevent murders.

On the other side of the argument, while it does seem that murders, including gun murders, went up when cities like DC, Chicago, NYC, and Philly banned guns, which they did, it was also happening nationally.  Rushing to say gun control causes increased crime rates I believe is also unfounded.  It's also important to note that gun violence and murders did fall after the assault weapons ban ended.

Maybe it's analysis like this that made our very own CDC admit that the "evidence was insufficient to determine the effectiveness of any of these [firearms] laws" after analyzing 51 studies in 2003 which looked into gun control laws including waiting periods, 'shall issue' permitting, and gun bans 22.

PS...Gun Control Lobby:

Gun control interest group contributions to federal candidates

Election Cycle Rank† Total Contributions Contributions from Individuals Contributions from PACs Soft/Outside Money Donations to Democrats Donations to Republicans % to Dems % to Repubs
2012 71 $3,127,478 $1,843,258 $1,255,384 $28,836 $133,218 $2,962,224 4% 96%
2010 71 $2,877,590 $1,008,061 $1,784,254 $85,275 $459,937 $2,320,128 17% 83%
2008 73 $2,818,592 $1,200,420 $1,617,947 $225 $362,235 $2,452,857 13% 87%
2006 74 $1,575,672 $273,125 $1,302,547 $0 $179,657 $1,396,015 11% 89%
2004 73 $2,044,967 $558,293 $1,486,674 $0 $191,796 $1,851,998 9% 91%
2002 68 $2,812,245 $202,390 $1,645,132 $964,723 $185,100 $2,624,847 7% 93%
2000 63 $4,342,535 $490,237 $2,027,776 $1,824,522 $309,550 $4,013,935 7% 93%
1998 62 $2,516,575 $249,203 $1,917,372 $350,000 $310,600 $2,202,885 12% 88%
1996 71 $1,963,291 $67,110 $1,808,456 $87,725 $286,740 $1,676,551 15% 85%
1994 57 $2,407,109 $67,202 $2,036,407 $303,500 $457,488 $1,949,158 19% 81%
1992 64 $1,874,405 $29,225 $1,845,180 $0 $661,592 $1,204,813 35% 65%
1990 65 $928,387 $20,700 $907,687 $0 $317,252 $611,135 34% 66%
Total 68 $29,288,846 $6,009,224 $19,634,816 $3,644,806 $3,855,165 $25,266,546 13% 87%
†Rank represents the rank of the gun rights industry compared to other industries' contributions

 Over the past 22 years, the gun lobby has been the 68th largest lobby on average 23.  Not as high as the media would lead you to believe, is it?



  13. Graph constructed at with data from:
    a) Dataset: "Uniform Crime Reporting Program, District of Columbia, 1960-2008." Federal Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Justice Information Services Division. Data supplied to Just Facts on June 15, 2010.
    b) Article: "Homicide totals for 2009 plummet in District, Prince George's." By Allison Klein. Washington Post, January 1, 2010.
    "The number of slayings last year in the District, once known as the murder capital of the United States, was 140, a 25 percent drop from 2008. ... The homicide numbers were compiled as of late Thursday night and could go up New Year's Eve, but any such increases are not likely to change the overall trend."
    NOTE: By performing calculations with the data above (140 slayings in 2009, which is a 25% drop from 2008) and 2008 data from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program, Just Facts has determined that these "slayings" include both homicides and nonnegligent manslaughters, not just homicides.
    c) Dataset: "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for the United States, Regions, States, and Puerto Rico: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2009." U.S. Census Bureau, December 2009.
    Population in DC as of July 1, 2009 = 599,657
    d) Dataset: "Uniform Crime Reporting Program, United States, 1960-2008." Federal Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Justice Information Services Division. Data supplied to Just Facts on June 15, 2010.
  19. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "First Reports Evaluating the Effectiveness of Strategies for Preventing Violence: Early Childhood Home Visitation and Firearms Laws," Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (October 3, 2003), vol. 52(No. RR-14):14-18.

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