Data shows why the US is an outlier when it comes to gun deaths

Mass shootings like the horrific attack that killed 19 children and 2 teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, or the murder of 10 people at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York the week before, are only too much common in the United States. There were 214 mass shootings, defined by Gun Violence Archives like the one in which at least 4 people were shot – in the United States in the first 145 days of the year. These types of tragedies seem unique to America, where there are more civilian-owned guns than people.

In reality, gun violence is a huge problem in many other countries, but none that the United States would consider a peer.

The United States stands out

Countries with high rates of violent gun deaths tend to be poorer

Note: GDP per capita for Denmark and Greenland are from CIA. Greenland’s GDP per capita is for 2015, the latest data available.

Sources: Institute for Health Metrics Evaluation, IMF, CIA

Gun deaths are high in places like El Salvador, Guatemala and Colombia, where gang violence and drug trafficking are rampant. Among developed economies, no other has as many violent gun deaths as the United States.

Odd One Out

Gun violence deaths per 100,000 population in developed economies

Sources: Institute for Health Metrics Evaluation, United Nations

Latin America

The firearm homicide rate is high in Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean. In 2021, the Mexican government sued the United States and several arms manufacturers, claiming loose controls were contributing to the illegal flow of weapons across the border. Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil and Chile allow citizens to own guns but regulate their purchase.

In Brazil, guns have become easier to obtain and have mushroomed in circulation under shamelessly pro-gun President Jair Bolsonaro, who claims that getting guns into the hands of “good guys” helps reduce crime. Registered collectors, hunters and users of recreational firearms jumped 325%, to more than one million licensed owners last year, from just over 255,000 in 2018, according to a joint study by Igarape Institute and Sou da Paz Institute, grassroots organizations that focus on issues of security and violence.


In China, Chairman Mao Zedong once said, “Political power comes from the barrel of a gun. The Communist Party implemented one of the strictest gun control laws in 1996, prohibiting the possession, manufacture, trade, transport, rental of weapons to anyone other than staff state-licensed, such as law enforcement, security guards, licensed athletes, and hunters.

In India, the second most populous country in the world, obtaining a firearms license involves a thorough assessment and background check. The country of 1.4 billion people had about 3.3 million gun licenses in 2018.

Southeast Asia has strict gun controls despite being a hub for cross-border gun smuggling and trafficking. Cambodia and Vietnam ban firearms while Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand enforce restrictive controls. The death penalty can be imposed for gun crimes in countries like Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia.


European countries have strict regulations that prohibit civilians from carrying weapons, with some exceptions. The deadly terrorist attack on the Hyper Cacher supermarket in Paris in 2015 and the mass shooting near a Munich shopping center the following year drew attention to the proliferation of converted alarm handguns in the region. .

“In general, there is a long-term decline in gun homicides in the EU,” says Katharina Krüsselmann, a doctoral researcher on gun violence and homicide who worked on the EU’s Target project. Sweden stands out for having a high level of firearm homicides compared to other European countries, at approximately 4 deaths per million inhabitants per year. The average for Europe is around 1.6 deaths per million population, according to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention.

According to Alexei Anisin of the Anglo American University in Prague, Central and Eastern Europe has recorded a lower frequency of mass shootings than the United States. There are strict regulations on gun ownership throughout the region, and obtaining permission usually requires going through layers of bureaucracy, including a psychological evaluation and training process.

Middle East and South Africa

Guns in Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates are very strictly regulated with behavioral and background checks resulting in very few cases of gun violence. The minimum age to obtain a license is 21 and firearms must be registered. In Kuwait, even bullets must be allowed.

In South Africa, an estimated 2.72 million firearms are owned by individuals in this country of 60 million people. The country recorded 7,351 gun-related killings in 2019-20, according to the most recent data available from the Ministry of Police.

“Gun crime is the leading cause of murder in South Africa. But, we don’t have a trend of mass school shootings, rather we have incidents of murders of family members and guns being used in gang or union related crimes,” said Police Ministry spokeswoman Lirandzu Themba by telephone from Pretoria.

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