President Obama held a town hall on gun violence following his executive action on Tuesday. While the president made his case for stronger gun control laws, there are questions that remain about the big picture.
The following are thirteen charts that attempt to present a balanced perspective of the issue.
1. Firearms Ownership Increasing While Gun Homicides Plummeting
Gun homicides are down 49% since 1993, according to Bureau of Justice statistics data. Even if there is no causation between more guns and less violence, there sure is a whole lot of correlation going on.
2. No Strong Connection Between Gun Homicides and Firearms Ownership
The U.S. is truly an oddball: It has by far the most guns at 1.12 per civilian, but its intentional homicide rate averages 4 per 100,000. There is no significant correlation between guns per person and firearms homicide rate when looking at the biggest picture.
3. Find the United States in This Chart
This chart is a proportional representation of various nations' deaths from gun violence. It includes France, Mexico, Finland, and other developed nations (more on this later). America's firearms-related death rate is 10.64 per 100,000 (statistics via GunPolicy.org).
4. America Has High Homicide Rate versus Other "Developed" Nations
The U.S. homicide rate is pretty high when compared to other "developed" countries, based on data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. This chart shows a homicide rate of 5 per 100,000 (this figure has dropped in more recent years to approximately 3.6 per 100,000).
5. Other "Developed" Nations Have Issues with Homicide Rates
America is not as great an outlier compared to other nations having "high" development or better according to the UN's Human Development Indicator (HDI), which rates countries by levels of economic development and quality-of-life.
The FiveThirtyEight blog mapped the U.S. and selected other nations on a scatterplot of homicides per 100,000 vs. HDI (the higher the score the more "advanced").
6. U.S. Firearms Ownership Dwarfs Other Nations
The United States has by far the highest gun ownership rate at a whopping 112 guns per 100 civilians. The U.S. has 12 times the guns of Honduras, but 1/22nd the firearms-related homicide.
7. America Not the Only 'Developed' Nation with Mass Shooting Problem
Below is a chart of mass shooting statistics, when corrected for population. It shows that the U.S. has comparable frequency to other nations when accounting for its large population size (0.72 fatalities per 1,000,000 population). [Archived data based on OECD and other statistics can be found here.]
8. Mass Homicide Not on Rise, Victims are Down
The latest UN Global Study on Homicide (2014) reports that the number of victims in mass murder cases are down, while the number of such cases are flat in the United States. Gun violence data for 2015 shows there were 45 mass murders committed with guns.
It should be noted, just for perspective about how difficult it is to stop such fatal mass shootings: mass murderers comprise 0.000045% of the population with access to firearms in the United States.
9. U.S. Homicide Rates in Global Context
A map from the UN puts the United States homicide rate in perspective.
Male homicide rates, female homicide rates, differences in national homicide rates, and sub-national homicide rates are compared in this revolving chart.
10. 'Murder Capitals' of America
The top U.S. cities for murder per capita in 2014: Detroit (45), New Orleans (41), Newark, NJ (40), St. Louis (38), Baltimore (37), Birmingham, AL (30), Cincinnati (24), and Oakland, CA (22).
It should be noted that many cities in the United States that struggle with shooting violence possess some of the toughest gun control regulations.
11. U.S. Cities Have Gun Homicide Rates Similar to the Worst of the Worst Worldwide
The gun murder rates of U.S. cities are disproportionately high and match up with some of the worst nations in the world.
New Orleans, for example, is comparable to the nation with the highest known gun murder rate: Honduras.
12. Gun Sales Under President Obama
The New York Times reports on the dramatic effect of the president's gun initiatives on firearms sales.
Each time the president has pushed hard for more gun control laws, there has been a spike in firearms sales.
The Washington Post compared 2012 homicide rates for each state to Brady Scores (the Brady campaign scores states on how strong they are on 'gun control'). There was no connection between "stronger" gun laws and lower homicide rates.
Everyone finds gun murders abhorrent and wants there to be fewer victims. But in order to find the solution on how to reduce such murders in the United States, a balanced perspective at the national and international levels is needed.
When taking into account all available international data, there is no relationship between firearms ownership and gun homicide rates. The findings from a comparative perspective show that the U.S. has relatively high homicide rate among "developed" nations, but is lower than one would expect given its very high firearms ownership.
There are numerous cities with unacceptably high gun murder rates, but those tend to have stronger gun control laws.
A state-level breakdown shows no connection between gun control laws and lower homicide rates. New Hampshire and Vermont, for example, have "permissive" laws and the lowest homicide rates in the nation.