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.