International Comparisons

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Table 3-1 displays the data on homicides, firearm-related homicides,

and firearm availability for 36 countries. Krug et al. (1998) collected these

data by surveying ministries of health or national statistical centers in each

of these countries. Review of these data indicate that while the United

States does not have the highest rate of homicide or firearm-related homicide,

it does have the highest rates for these among industrialized democracies.

Homicide rates in the United States are two to four times higher than

they are in countries that are economically and politically similar to it.

Higher rates are found in developing countries and those with political

instability. The same is true for firearm-related homicides, but the differences

are even greater. The firearm-related homicide rate in the United

States is more like that of Argentina, Mexico, and Northern Ireland than

England or Canada. While certainly not the highest homicide or firearmrelated

homicide rate in the world, these rates in the United States are in the

upper quartile in each case.

Some researchers have used data like those summarized above to

assess the relationship between firearm-related homicides and firearms

availability. For the most part this research focuses on industrialized

nations and uses various proxies for the measure of firearms availability.

While the vast majority of these studies conclude that homicides

and availability are closely associated (Lester, 1990; Killias, 1993a,

1993b; Hemenway and Miller, 2000), the methodological problems in

this research (measurement of key variables is of questionable validity,

the use of nation-states as the unit of analysis may mask subnational

variability, and models tested are poorly specified) do not encourage

us to place much weight on this research. However, as noted earlier,

the level of nongun homicide is much higher in the United States than

it is in other countries. A high level of violence may be a cause of a

high level of firearms availability instead of the other way around.

Further work with better measures and more complete samples might

be useful; for now this literature can be considered suggestive but not

conclusive.

TABLE 3-1 International Firearms Homicide and Suicide Rates

Total Firearm Total Firearm Percentage

Homicides Homicides Suicides Suicides Households

(per (per (per (per with

Country Year 100,000) 100,000) 100,000) 100,000) Firearms

Estonia 1994 28.21 8.07 40.95 3.13 9 (UN)

Brazil 1993 19.04 10.58 3.46 .73 4.35 (UN)

Mexico 1994 17.58 9.88 2.89 .91 N/A

United 1993 9.93 7.07 12.06 6.3 39

States

Northern 1994 6.09 5.24 8.41 1.34 8.4 (1989)

Ireland

Argentina 1994 4.51 2.11 6.71 2.89 3

Hungary 1994 3.53 .23 35.38 .88 N/A

Finland 1994 3.24 .86 27.26 5.78 25.2 (1992)

Portugal 1994 2.98 1.28 14.83 1.28 N/A

Mauritius 1993 2.35 .00 12.98 .09 N/A

Israel 1993 2.32 .72 7.05 1.84 N/A

Italy 1992 2.25 1.66 12.65 1.11 16

Scotland 1994 2.24 .19 12.16 .33 4.7 (1989)

Canada 1992 2.16 .76 13.19 3.72 24.2 (1992)

Slovenia 1994 2.01 .35 31.16 2.51 N/A

Australia 1994 1.79 .44 12.65 2.35 15.1 (1992)

Taiwan 1994 1.78 .15 6.88 .12 N/A

South Korea 1994 1.62 .04 9.48 .02 N/A

New Zealand 1993 1.47 .17 12.81 2.14 22.3 (1992)

Belgium 1990 1.41 .60 19.04 2.56 16.5 (1992)

Switzerland 1994 1.32 .58 21.28 5.61 27.2 (1989)

Sweden 1993 1.30 .18 15.75 2.09 15.1 (1992)

Hong Kong 1993 1.23 .12 10.29 .07 N/A

Denmark 1993 1.21 .23 22.33 2.25 N/A

Austria 1994 1.17 .42 12.12 4.06 18-20

(1996)

Germany 1994 1.17 .22 15.64 1.17 8.9 (1989)

Singapore 1994 1.17 .07 14.06 .17 N/A

Greece 1994 1.14 .59 3.4 .84 .03 (UN)

France 1994 1.12 .44 20.79 5.14 22.6 (1989)

Netherlands 1994 1.11 .36 10.03 .31 1.9 (1992)

Kuwait 1995 1.01 .36 1.66 .06 N/A

Norway 1993 .97 .30 13.64 3.95 32. (1989)

Spain 1993 .95 .21 7.77 .43 13.1 (1989)

Ireland 1991 .62 .03 9.81 .94 N/A

Japan 1994 .62 .02 16.72 .04 .57 (UN)

England and 1992 .55 .07 7.68 .33 4.4

Wales

SOURCES: Krug et al. (1998); United Nations (2000).