Outside of disease, firearms are the second-largest cause of death worldwide after road accidents. How many people die from gun violence? There were a little over a quarter million deaths caused by guns globally in 2016, the last year for which figures from most countries are available. These latest gun violence statistics cover a wide range of aspects related to firearm-related deaths in the world in general and in the US in particular.
Before we continue, what is gun violence? It refers to death or injury caused by the use of firearms and includes homicide, assault with a deadly weapon, suicide, and attempted suicides, as well as non-criminal violence like accidental death or injury.
These gun violence statistics show that the issue of gun violence is not uniformly critical everywhere in the world. They also show that in most countries that top the list of firearm-related deaths, what causes gun violence—the social, economic, and political environment—is different from the reasons for it in the US.
In the US, despite a functioning criminal justice system and most socio-economic metrics being comparable with the best in the world, the rate of gun-related homicides and suicides is abnormally high. These statistics, therefore, begin with a wider coverage of gun violence statistics worldwide, but then look at the conditions in the US that make gun violence and gun control such a hot topic of debate. This includes data related to gun ownership in the country as well as some aspects of gun control, an issue that is seeing increasing support even from some unlikely quarters.
We are sure these statistics will help you gain a clearer understanding of the seriousness of the problem and develop a more informed viewpoint on an important and often divisive political issue.
Top 7 Facts to Remember
There are an estimated 120.5 civilian firearms per 100 persons in the US
In the past year, 36,000 died in the US due to gun violence
There were 340 mass shootings in the past year
Over 75% of first and second graders know where their parents keep firearms and 36% admitted to handling the weapons
43% of households in the US own one or more firearms
States with stricter gun control laws witness fewer gun-related deaths
Over 80% of guns used by youth in suicide attempts are kept in the home of the victim, friend or relative
Gun-related violence: US vs. the World
1. Half of all gun-related deaths in the world take place in just 6 countries
Based on 2016 data on how many people are killed by guns each year, six countries—Brazil (43,200), USA (37,200), Mexico (15,400), Colombia (13,300), Venezuela (12,800), and Guatemala (5,090)—account for about 50.5% of the 251,000 gun deaths in the world. Population-wise, less than 10% of the world’s population resides in these countries. The US is the only country with a strong economy and criminal justice system to have such high level of gun-related incidents.
2. The US ranks 20th in the world in terms of deaths per 100,000 people
El Salvador tops this 2016 list as the country with most gun violence, with 39.2 deaths per 100,000 people, followed by Venezuela at 38.7. The United States, with 10.6, ranks below other countries like Brazil (19.4) and Mexico (11.8). The US also ranks 30th in gun homicide rate by year, but a high rate of gun-related suicides brings it to the 2nd position in the total number of gun-related deaths in the world.
3. USA sees 100 times more firearm-related deaths per 100,000 people compared to Germany
While gun violence statistics by country show that the rate of violent deaths in the US is well below countries like El Salvador and Venezuela, its gun problem is unique among the world’s largest economies. The USA also differs from other high gun violence rate countries in terms of types of gun violence, with suicides accounting for a higher share of gun-related deaths here. Germany, the country with the next highest gun violence rate outside North America sees only 0.1 firearm-related deaths per 100,000 people. The figures for Canada, UK, China, and Japan are 2.1, 0.048, 0.033, and 0.032, respectively.
4. America accounts for 1/3rd of the world’s total number of gun suicides
The 2018 report by JAMA on gun violence statistics found that there were 23,800 gun suicides in USA in 2016, accounting for a third of the world total, despite the country only having 4% of the world population. India ranked second in the study, in terms of absolute numbers, at 13,400.
5. Depending on what is considered a mass shooting, the US accounts for 30% of all such incidents in the world
Mass shooting statistics by country have seen their fair share of controversy, though. Two studies have been widely cited in recent times. The first, carried out by University of Alabama’s Adam Lankford, claims 90 mass shootings in the US (excluding gang-related shootings, drive-by shootings, hostage-taking incidents, robberies, and acts of genocide or terrorism) between 1966 and 2012, against 202 in the rest of the world, including 18 in The Philippines, 15 in Russia, 11 in Yemen, and 10 in France. The other set of mass shooting statistics worldwide, by John R Lott, Jr, of the Crime Prevention Research Center, claims a figure of 43 in the US between 1998 and 2012 against 1,491 incidents worldwide.
6. Developed countries with high density of guns also have more gun deaths
If skeptics are not convinced that a higher circulation of guns in the community results in a higher number of gun-related deaths, the data on gun ownership vs. gun violence by country will only corroborate this. According to figures on crime rates in countries with gun control vs. no gun control, countries like Canada, Finland, and France that have a higher number of guns per 100 people also have higher gun-related deaths per 100,000 people.
7. There are an estimated 120.5 civilian firearms per 100 persons in the US
That’s not just higher than any other country in the world, but it also makes the US the only country where there are more firearms than people. Even disturbed areas like Yemen, Iraq, and Afghanistan have lower civilian ownership at 52.8, 19.6, and 12.5, respectively. According to gun violence statistics 2018, some other large economies with relatively high gun ownership rates are Canada (34.7), Switzerland (27.6), Germany (19.6), and Australia (14.5). India ranks second in terms of total number of civilian firearms at 71 million, about 5 times less than the total for USA.
8. USA has lower violent crime rates than the average of industrialized countries
Yes, that’s not a typo. Despite the poor image USA has for its gun violence statistics, it is not an outlier when it comes to crimes in general. According to the famous International Crime Victims Survey, the average violent crime rate for fifteen industrialized nations is 6.3%, while the rate for the US is 5.5%. Countries like Australia, UK, and France have higher violent crime rates. It is the gun culture, however, which makes every violent crime in the US that much deadlier. For instance, a robbery gone wrong is 54 times more likely to end in a shooting death in New York than it is in London.
Gun Violence in America Statistics
9. More Americans have died in firearm-related incidents since 1968 than they have in wars since 1775
The history of gun violence in America has been the subject of many studies. The total of firearm-related deaths between 1968 and 2015 was 1.53 million, which is 27.5% higher than all American casualties in wars between 1775 and 2017 (1.2 million). If even a fraction of the funding and legislative effort focused on wars were to be spent on the problem of gun violence in America, these incredible numbers could be brought down.
10. How many people died in 2018 because of gun violence in the US? 36,000, according to the most reliable source
This figure includes roughly 22,000 suicides but does not include 28,712 additional injuries caused by guns. While gun violence statistics by year show that these numbers are slightly lower than those for 2017 (15,656 non-suicidal deaths, 31,247 injuries), the difference is marginal. More shockingly, these gun death statistics have remained in this range since at least 2014 when common sense would expect governments to make policies to curb such high mortality rates.
11. 667 children (11 years or younger) were killed or injured in gun-related violence in the US in 2018
A high mortality rate among children is among the most egregious examples of gun violence. Along with an additional 2,835 teenagers killed or injured, data on teenage gun violence indicates that over 8% of those killed or injured in non-suicidal gun violence in the US in 2018 weren’t even adults. According to youth violence statistics, the rate of gun death among children is 36.5 times the overall rate observed in other high-income countries.
12. The ratio of American kids killed by guns to those killed by cancer is 2:1
Child gun accident statistics in USA are particularly heartbreaking. According to an analysis by the University of Michigan Injury Prevention Center, gun deaths are the second largest cause of death of children in the US after car accidents. However, while the number of car accident related deaths has fallen sharply since the early 2000s, gun death statistics show that the number of firearm-related deaths has remained steady in the same period.
13. There were 340 mass shootings in the US in 2018
This was a slight decrease from the 346 mass shootings in 2017, according to mass shootings in America statistics. The mass shootings in 2018 included the incident at the Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, better known as the Parkland shooting, which resulted in the death of 17 people. The movement around this shooting, driven largely by the students of the school, has resulted in an incredible wave of support for gun control legislation since then.
14. There were 3 major school shootings in the US in 2018
According to mass shooting statistics for 2018, three of the deadliest incidents in the US were high school shootings. Apart from the one at Parkland, Florida, in February, two students were killed and sixteen wounded at Marshall County High School in Benton, Kentucky in January, and ten people were killed and fourteen wounded at Santa Fe High School in Texas in May. Per year average of school shootings was recorded to be 54.6 between 2013 and 2017. Data also points toward an increase in gun violence severity (number of fatalities per mass shooting).
15. As many as 500,000 bump stocks could be in circulation in the US
The sale and possession of bump stocks, devices that can be attached to semi-automatic firearms to make them fire more rapidly, were banned by the US federal government in December 2018. However, gun control statistics from the DoJ indicate that there might already be between 280,000 and 520,000 bump stocks in civilian hands, and it is unlikely that all of them will be destroyed. This is shocking for guns with bump stocks played a key role in the increased severity of the shooting in Las Vegas in 2017, which left 58 people dead and more than 800 injured.
16. States with a higher density of guns experience more gun deaths
There is a strong correlation between gun ownership and gun deaths. Empirical evidence indicates that more guns in a community lead to higher homicide rates. The states with the highest gun ownership per 100,000 residents, like Alaska, Wyoming, and Montana, also see the highest number of gun deaths per 100,000 residents.
17. More police officers are killed on duty in states that have more guns
Based on research involving fifteen years of data of police officers being killed in the line of duty, it has been found that every 10% increase in firearm ownership correlates with 10 additional officers killed in homicides. Gun violence statistics by state also show that, given the high expectation of encountering deadly violence, police officers in states with high gun ownership also tend to use deadly force with higher frequency.
18. Nearly 30% of mass shootings in the US between 1982 and 2018 involved guns that were illegally obtained or that had indeterminate origins
An important takeaway from gun control facts is that registrations and background checks only go so far if the widespread circulation of firearms makes it easy for disturbed elements to source them easily through other means. Of the 106 mass shootings in the US between 1982 and 2018, 15 were carried out using illegally obtained firearms and 16 using guns of unknown or yet to be determined origins.
19. 6,885 people died in the US between 2006 and 2016 in unintentional shootings
According to gun violence statistics by CDC, in 2016 alone, there were 495 incidents of deaths caused by a firearms accident. As with other gun-related deaths, there is a statistically significant correlation between gun availability and the rates of unintentional firearm deaths. According to a 2001 study, people are nine times more likely to die from unintentional firearm injuries when they live in states with more guns, relative to states with fewer guns.
20. Over 1.69 million kids aged 18 and under in the US live in households with loaded and unlocked firearms
The presence of an easily available household gun sets the stage for possible tragedy. CDC gun statistics also show that adolescents are particularly susceptible to accidental shootings due to specific behavioral characteristics like impulsivity and curiosity. This is reflected in the high rate of accidental gun deaths per year among the youth. In 2015, for example, 2,824 children (age 0 to 19 years) died by gunshot and an additional 13, 723 were injured.
21. More than 75% of first and second graders know where their parents keep firearms
36% of first and second graders have also admitted to handling the weapons, which is contradictory to what most parents believe or report. More than 80% of guns used by youth in suicide attempts are kept in the home of the victim, a relative, or a friend. Gun safety statistics show that 31% of accidental gun deaths could be prevented with the addition of two devices: a child-proof safety lock and a loading indicator.
22. If all mental illnesses in the US were to be cured overnight, violent crime in the country would fall by only 4%
Relating mental health with violent crime, as is frequently done after mass shootings in the US, is factually wrong and citing mental health as one of the causes of gun violence stigmatizes the millions of nonviolent mental health patients. As a study by Duke University professor Jeffrey Swanson shows, even if all cases of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression were cured immediately in the US, the effect on gun incidents would be marginal. Michael Stone, a psychiatrist at Columbia, wrote in a 2015 article that just about 22% of the mass shooters’ database maintained by him had any sort of diagnosed mental illness.
23. 67% of gun owners in the US cite protection or self-defense as the reason for owning a firearm
Gun control statistics 2018 throw up a familiar finding, with a vast majority of Americans citing the same reasons as earlier for keeping personal firearms at home. 38% of gun owners say hunting is the main reason, while 30% own firearms to indulge in shooting as a sport. Gun owners living in cities and suburbs are more likely to cite protection as the primary reason.
24. Less than 1% of victims of non-fatal attacks use guns for self-defense
A number of crimes stopped by gun owners statistics, including a comprehensive analysis carried out by the US Department of Justice, have consistently shown that actual instances of gun use for self-defense are simply too low to justify carrying firearms in public. In fact, the widespread presence of arms ends up making conflicts deadlier than they have to be.
25. Concealed carry permit laws can lead to increases in violent crimes by 13-15%
In fact, a Stanford study on gun violence trends has shown that states that have enacted expansive laws that permit carrying firearms, mainly for self-defense, end up experiencing a significant rise in violent crimes within a decade. Accidental shooting statistics have shown that guns in home raise the risk of homicides by several degrees. The presence of a gun in a home with a history of domestic violence increases the risk that a woman will be killed by 500%. A suicide using a firearm also becomes that much easier when a gun is close at hand at home.
26. Gunshot victims require 10 times more blood compared to victims of other trauma
A stark reminder of the vast amount of resources gun-related incidents can consume comes from a recent study that found that the average cost of transfusing patients of gun injuries was more than $11,000, which is almost twice the cost for victims of other types of traumatic injuries. In extreme cases, the cost can go up to $126,000. Gunshot victims are 5 times more likely to need blood transfusion than other injury patients and 14 times more likely to die.
US Gun Ownership Statistics
27. The number of firearms manufactured in the US has gone up nearly 3 times in the last 10 years
While gun ownership and gun manufacturing might not have a one-on-one correspondence, the 11-million-plus firearms being manufactured in the US per year (against 4 million in 2007) must be getting used somewhere.
28. 43% of households in the US own one or more firearms
Interestingly, despite all the debate surrounding gun ownership and gun control, the latest guns in the home statistics show that the percentage of firearm-owning households in the US has hovered around the 43% to 45% mark since 1972. This reflects the cultural significance and symbolic power gun ownership has in the US, which goes well beyond the obvious pros and cons of owning a firearm. In fact, almost half of the civilian-owned guns in the world are in the US.
29. At 637,612, Texas has by far the highest number of registered firearms in the US
According to figures on gun ownership by state, Texas has nearly 70% more registered firearms than Florida, the state with the next highest number. The other states with high gun ownership in absolute numbers are California, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. In terms of the number of guns per 100,000 people, Wyoming and Alaska rank near the top. Across the states, how many guns are in the US in 2018? According to this source, there are about 5.17 million registered guns in 2018 in the US, but the estimates on how many guns are privately owned in the US, according to the Small Arms Survey are vastly different. After accounting for unregistered firearms, the tally goes up to well over 393 million!
30. A cheap pistol and a single box of defensive rounds can be bought in the US for $250
For comparison, an iPhone 7 (first released in 2016) is available after discount at $299.99 on Amazon.com. Easy gun availability has always been a major issue in the gun debate. Of course, guns come in wide ranges, with revolvers available even at $200 and a top-of-the-line rifle setting you back by $10,000. The overall cost of being a responsible gun owner can be substantial with ammunition, accessories, lessons and range fees, and administrative fees.
31. The likelihood of living in a household with a firearm in the US increases with the household income
For the reasons given in the previous point, owning a firearm, just like owning any other commodity, is easier for the well-off. Weapons statistics from a NORC study, for instance, show that while only about 18% households with income below $25,000 owned a firearm, the rate went up to 44% for households with income above $90,000. A more granular comparison also shows that personal ownership rate increases with increasing income.
32. A caucasian US citizen is twice as likely to own a firearm compared to an African-American citizen
Tying into the previous point about firearms being a luxury is the finding that while 39% white citizens in the US own a personal firearm, the rate among black citizens is less than half at 18.1%. Similarly, the rates for Hispanic and non-Hispanic citizens are notably different at 15.2% and 36%. The benefits of the 2nd Amendment do not seem to be available equally to all sections of the American society.
33. The gender gap in personal firearms ownership in the US has closed by 17 percentage points between 1980 and 2014
Gun statistics show that the difference between the percentage of men who owned a firearm and the percentage of women who did so was 40.2 in 1980. Probably a sign of improvements in gender disparity in the US is the finding that this difference has decreased consistently over the years to come down to 23.4 in 2014. The data point does not make it clear, of course, if the narrowing of this gap is because more women are buying guns or if fewer men are.
US Gun Control Statistics
34. States with stricter gun control laws witness fewer gun-related deaths
Studies on strict gun laws vs. crime rate statistics have found that while factors like high population, more stress, more immigrants, and more mental illness have no correlation with gun deaths, states with tighter gun control laws do tend to experience fewer gun-related deaths just as states with most gun violence have the most relaxed gun laws. Anti-gun statistics repeatedly show that new legal restrictions on owning and purchasing guns tend to be followed by a drop in gun violence.
35. 8 US states passed red flag laws after the Parkland shooting
Red flag laws—measures to keep guns away from people who show signs of volatility—were in place in only five states before the Parkland mass shooting. School shooting facts in the US typically had little effect on gun politics in the country, but the impact of the Parkland incident has been different. Out of the many bills introduced after it, those in eight more states became laws. The states where they are in place now are Washington, Oregon, California, Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey, Maryland, Florida, Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Massachusetts.
36. Policies that limit access to guns also lead to a decrease in suicide rates
Gun violence facts show that firearms are by far the most successful way to commit suicide, with a success rate of 96.5%. It has also been found that US states with the highest gun ownership have the highest numbers of reported suicides. On the other hand, when countries reduce access to arms, as has been seen in Australia, there is a sharp decrease in a short period in the rates of suicide attempts. How many guns are there in Australia? Australia is estimated to have a little over 3.5 million firearms, of which only 11.5% are believed to be unregistered.
37. Campus gun violence is the No. 1 issue motivating young people in the US to vote
One of the more heartening pro-gun control facts is that from a menu of sixteen prominent issues developed by younger voters for a mid-2018 project, views related to school shootings were most highly attributed with likelihood to vote. The next two issues with the strongest correlation were health care and overall gun violence. The Parkland students started a movement that has resonated with the youth across the USA.
38. 80% of young voters in the US in 2018 favor tighter gun-safety laws
This includes 46% of young Republicans and 48% of young gun owners. The number of young people who want stricter gun laws in America has risen by 21% since 2012, the year of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newton, Connecticut. This strong motivation to see gun law changes was also reflected in the 10% increase in young voter turnout in the 2018 midterm elections.
39. NRA’s federal campaign spending in 2018 fell to 1/3rd of its spending in 2014
In 2018, a midterm election year, the National Rifle Association (NRA) spent $9.7 million on the Republican Party. The party typically fields pro-gun politicians, some of which are openly against gun control facts. This was a substantial drop from the $27 million spent four years earlier. There have been news stories about the NRA being more than $31 million in the red. On the other hand, gun violence prevention groups like Giffords and Everytown for Gun Safety spent $11 million in the 2018 elections and got victories even in traditionally red states.
40. Less than 20% of Americans are members of the NRA
An often overlooked point on the NRA is that its impact on the gun debate has largely been overstated. Its spending on lobbying hasn’t been that high lately, either. A key takeaway from these gun violence statistics is that instead of battling it out with the NRA, a more effective way forward for the increasing number of people in favor of gun control might be to focus on gun education and on convincing the public to back anti-gun legislation with votes.