Gun Ownership vs. Gun-Related Death Rates

I have been debating the issue of gun control in the US for a long time. In the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I started thinking about it again.

Both sides have compelling arguments. The argument from those against gun control is often that there is no correlation between gun ownership and gun violence. The often cited example is UK versus Switzerland. They say the UK and Switzerland both have low rates of gun-related violence and yet, they are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to gun ownership. In the UK, citizens cannot own guns whereas in Switzerland, just about every household has one.

Rather than take this as fact, I decided to research it myself. With Wikipedia as my source, I discovered that the UK versus Switzerland argument does not hold water. It is true that the UK has an essential non-existant gun ownership rate (it doesn’t even make the list). It’s also true that Switzerland has a very high gun ownership rate. It’s also true that the UK is near the bottom of the list when it comes to gun-related death. However, Switzerland is not. In fact, ranks 16th in gun-related deaths, not far behind the US.

For comparison, the US has 9.2 gun-related deaths per 100,000 people per year. Switzerland has 3.5 where as the UK has only .25! Switzerland’s gun-related deaths are 16 times higher than the UK. If you compare the tables of Gun-Ownership by Country versus Firearms-Related Deaths by Country, you will see that the countries with high gun-ownership tend to also be high when it comes to firearms-related deaths. I found another article indicating this same correlation and citing the CIA World Fact Book. However, the data was from 1992 and appears to be no longer available online.

I was not aware of this until I researched it. I thought it made sense that fewer guns would mean fewer gun deaths. But the anti-gun control argument was so compelling. It seemed that there was no correlation. As I have discovered, this has turned out to be a myth. There absolutely is a direct correlation between gun ownership and gun death just as logic would dictate.

It could be argued that the data from Wikipedia is not accurate but I think that argument is weak. I know from first-hand experience that the fact-checkers on Wikipedia are quite good and will remove what you edit or post unless you have good references. Certainly if this data was inaccurate and the gun lobby in the US could prove it, they could have updated the data themselves. It could be argued that Wikipedia has a liberal bias. The problem with this argument is that anyone can edit Wikipedia. So if there is a bias, it’s only that of those who choose to contribute. And again, without good references, new data is generally not accepted. If you can provide proof that Wikipedia’s information on gun ownership and firearms-related deaths is inaccurate, go for it. A feeling that it is, however, is something I would not consider. As Christopher Hitchens famously said, “What can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”

I have seen friends on Facebook share charts showing no correlation between gun ownership and gun deaths. These charts, however, usually are just pictures and don’t include reference to the data. And when they do, it wouldn’t surprise me if the charts come from someone or some organization with an agenda. It’s also an unfortunate fact that we tend to remember the first thing we hear about something even when we are later told that the information we received was incorrect.

It is my hope that you will look at this the way I did, with an open mind. The best way for us as a society to make the best-possible decisions, is to do so with facts, logic and reason rather than with our emotions. From what I am finding, gun-control does in fact lead to a lower rate of gun-related deaths. If we want fewer gun deaths, we need real gun control in the US.

2 responses to “Gun Ownership vs. Gun-Related Death Rates

  1. Take a look at the bigger picture, intentional homicide rates. The death rates for the two countries are reversed.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate

    • I think the bigger picture is gun-related deaths, not just intentional homicide. Accidental deaths due to guns would also be reduced by a reduction in the availability of guns. Intentional homicide is only one way people die as a result of guns. Switzerland is a perfect example. Based on the link you provided, most deaths in Switzerland due to guns are accidental. Now, I’m not saying that anything that could accidentally kill you should be made illegal. However, there’s no doubt that availability of guns contributes to deaths. The shooter in at that elementary school in CT for example tried to purchase a weapon but failed and instead used those owned by his mother.

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