More guns means more gun violence. It’s an intuitive relationship — so why can’t we seem to grasp it?
This world map, created by Reddit user phillybdizzle using 2012 data from The Guardian, shows just how high the rate of firearm ownership is in America — 88.8 guns per 100 people, by far the highest rate on the planet. (The second-highest, Yemen, has 54.8 guns per 100 people.)
The study behind it: Two Harvard researchers looked at 26 high-income countries and compared firearm ownership to homicide rates. The U.S. leads all developed countries in both categories — an American is 20 times more likely to die by gunshot than a resident of another developed country.
Image credit: Max Fisher/Washington Post
And it’s not just coincidence. The researchers found “a strong and statistically significant association between gun availability and homicide rates.” More specifically, each percentage point increase in proportion of household gun ownership is related to a 0.9% increase in homicides. The study controls for general crime rates and other social and economic variables.
There are plenty of countries with higher rates of gun violence than the U.S. — Honduras’ homicide rate is 22 times higher than America’s, even though Honduras has one-twelfth as many guns per person. The key is looking at wealthy industrialized countries, where violent crime rates are generally much lower.
What it means: This relationship between gun ownership and homicides is one of the reasons the U.S. has seen 74 school shootings since the Newtown tragedy — one every seven days.
Despite this, a December poll found that just 52% of Americans think gun control laws should be stricter. That’s a big hurdle to cross, even when the evidence seems to be right in front of you.
During a discussion on student loan debt Tuesday, President Obama was drawn off topic to gun violence when asked about the recent string of shootings. He seemed to understand the roadblocks facing action on gun control.
"The only thing that is going to change is public opinion,” he said. “If public opinion does not demand change in Congress, it will not change.”