‘The big education for me is that civilisation is fragile and can be destroyed in a heartbeat' - Jeremy Brade, former peacekeeper in Sarajevo.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The US gun debate - some additional facts

The recent mass shooting in a Florida school has seized the imagination, since it combines elements of fear, unpredictability and helplessness.  But emotional reactions have a way of skewing perceptions of overall reality. For example, the thought of an airplane crash has a similar terrifying effect, even though commercial passenger flight is, statistically, the safest mode of travel.

Without at all wishing to discount the horror of those killings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, I offer a few facts that might make us consider related issues more deeply:

In most countries, suicide is a bigger threat than homicide

"In 2013, 33,636 persons died from firearm injuries in the United States [...] The two major component causes of firearm injury deaths in 2013 were suicide (63.0%) and homicide (33.3%)." (1)

In most large and advanced countries, suicide is significantly more likely than murder or manslaughter - 2 1/2 times more in the US, 12 times more in Germany. (2)

Some other advanced and developing countries have a worse intentional death rate than the USA

Taking the overall rate of intentional death (i.e. homicides and suicides together), the US is less plagued than Finland, Japan and China, to name but a few. (2)

In the USA, black people are, proportionately to their numbers, far more likely than whites to be victims of homicide

Despite representing only 12.6% of the US population (3) ... "Of the 13,455 cases from last year [i.e. 2015] in which the FBI listed a victim's racial information, 7,039 victims – or 52.3 percent – were black." (4)

A number of other large countries have a worse murder rate than the US

The intentional homicide rate is some 5 times higher in the USA than in the UK (5), but the rate in the US [4.88 per 100,000 inhabitants] - terrible though it is - puts it 94th in the list by country. Large countries [see (6) for population figures] that have a higher homicide rate include (e.g.) Brazil (pop: 209m), Mexico (129m), Russia (144m) and the Philippines (105m).

Mass gun slayings in the US are a small percentage of overall firearm homicides

In 2015, mass shootings accounted for less than 4% of total US homicides by firearm. (7)

Things used to be far worse, in the Middle Ages

The murder rate in the university town of Oxford, England, in the 1340s is estimated to have been 110 per 100,000 inhabitants (8) - slightly worse than the most violent country today (said to be El Salvador - see (5), again)

(1) https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr64/nvsr64_02.pdf
(2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_death_rate
(3) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_and_ethnicity_in_the_United_States
(4) https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-09-29/race-and-homicide-in-america-by-the-numbers
(5) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate
(6) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_population_(United_Nations)
(7) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-34996604
(8) http://www.nytimes.com/1994/10/23/us/historical-study-of-homicide-and-cities-surprises-the-experts.html


Paddington said...

The last one that I saw had Honduras as the highest murder rate.

My conviction is that it is guns + culture.

Sackerson said...

@P: A propos the culture element:


Paddington said...

Overstatement of the differences. Remember how the otter died in 'Ring of Bright Water'?

Sackerson said...

A spade?

Paddington said...

Yep - a farmer who said it was 'just an otter'.

The attitudes in the article refer to a lady raised on a farm, and there are some realities of farm life.

James Higham said...

Worse in the middle ages - that clinches it.

Sackerson said...

@James: we're probably safer now than at any previous period in history - but modern communications has made us more and disproportionately aware of danger.