Mark Twain once lamented that there were u201Clies, damned lies and statisticsu201D, with the third being the most deceptive at all. I was reminded of this the other evening when examining a u201Chit pieceu201D that was circulating on Facebook last Friday in the aftermath of the horrific mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
I was feeling a bit wonkish and I thought I would look up some statistics on violence and gun ownership around the world. One study I found was from the 2007 Small Arms Survey that dealt with the number of guns per capita in 177 nations around the world. The other was a 2012 U.N. study on the number of intentional homicides in nations around the world.
While I am not a professional statistician, we can conclude one thing: there simply is no correlation between the murder rates and rates of firearms ownership.
Let's first consider the countries on the above graphic:
- Japan has almost no gun ownership.
- England has a low rate of gun ownership.
- Switzerland ranks fourth in the world in guns per capita.
- Canada ranks thirteenth in the world in guns per capita.
- Israel has a moderate rate of guns per capita.
- Sweden ranks tenth in the world in guns per capita.
- Germany ranks fifteenth in the world in guns per capita.
- The United States has the highest gun ownership rate on earth.
Now let's consider just a few statistics from the two surveys:
- Honduras has the highest homicide rate on earth, and a gun ownership rate similar to that of Great Britain.
- Rounding out the top five countries for highest homicide rate are El Salvador, the Ivory Coast, Jamaica and Venezuela, all of which have fairly low rates of gun ownership.
- North Korea has a homicide rate over three times that of the United States and almost no gun ownership.
- Yemen has the third highest rate of gun ownership and a homicide rate about equal to that of the United States. Serbia, with the second highest rate of gun ownership, has a homicide rate about one-third that of the United States.
- Norway ranks eleventh in the world in gun ownership and near the bottom in homicide. (Yes, someone went nutzoid there in the summer of 2011. However, five million other Norwegians didn’t.)
- Mexico has the same rate of gun ownership as Australia, and 16 times the homicide rate.
- Several dozen countries have higher homicide rates than the United States.
On Friday evening, I posted the following graphic about gun control and received some interesting comments.
One person was most indignant that I would make a connection between the genocide of Nazi Germany and the murder of innocents in Newtown, Connecticut. Both were gun-free zones where victim disarmament did not prevent mass murder.
Another asked why every government of a disarmed nation is not killing their own citizens en masse. To be sure, not every disarmed nation has experienced genocide. However, numerous genocides — e.g., Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, Mao's China, Pol Pot's Cambodia, North Korea — have followed citizen disarmament. Do you want to run that risk here in America?
The issue is not gun ownership. Rather, it is the evil that resides in the human heart. Depriving people of a tool — any tool — will not cure this. If people intent on crime cannot use one tool, they will use another. And when someone wants to victimize you, do you, in that most dreadful of moments, want to be denied the means of self-defense?
And just what if someone at Sandy Hook Elementary School had been armed on the morning of December 14? How many innocent lives would have been spared?