Last night, I was chatting with a dear friend who lives in Australia. He made a statement heard in many quarters. “You Americans and your love of hand guns are ruining your country and making you the laughing stock of the civilized world.” All we had to do was “look at the numbers to see the truth.” Well, I did look at the numbers. If you compare the total number of murders in the U.S. to that of a small country like, say, Costa Rica, you’d be right. But to get a fair and balanced apples-to-apples comparison, you need to look at the number of crimes per 1,000 residents. Now it get’s really interesting . . .
For the sake of argument, we turn to tables provided by nationmaster.com. They were created using data from the Seventh United Nations Survey of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems, covering the period 1998 – 2000. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Centre for International Crime Prevention) prepared an eighth survey, but the variances are small.
The headline: the U.S. murder rate per 1,000 Americans (relative easy access to handguns) was significantly lower than that of Costa Ricans (who aren’t legally allowed to own handguns). In fact, of the top 25 countries with the worst murder rate, handguns are outlawed in the top nine.
South Africa (handguns allowed) came in at number 10. The mild-mannered gun-crazed cowboys in the U.S. ranked twenty-fourth. In fact, the U.S. and South Africa were the only two countries where civilians have legal access to handguns to have made the top 25.
Just for S&Gs, let’s take handgun access as the fixed variable, and examine relative rates for other types of crime. Surely gun-crazed America leads the league table in other categories.
BURGLARY: Of the top 29 countries rated, most ban legal handgun ownership. The US ranks 17th, followed by France. Are handguns a deterrent? Maybe so.
RAPE: The US doesn’t even crack the top 50 in this category. The gun-banning Ozzies have the third highest rate of reported rapes. Their Kiwi cousins aren’t far behind.
KIDNAPPING: Again, America didn’t make the top 50, I can’t seem to find the US on the list at all. Oddly enough, our gun-loathing Canadian brothers and our stout U.K. allies across the pond both rank in the top three. Switzerland, Japan, and Belgium all rank in the Top 15. And there’s New Zealand again.
DRUG OFFENSES: The U.S. sneaks in at number 41. The Germans are number one without a bullet (in theory). They must be trying to forget the war along with number two, the U.K. New Zealand clocks-in at number 11. We have found the modern day “Sodom and Gomorrah” – and they have beaches!
So in summation, there doesn’t seem to be much truth to the fact that “civilized countries” are safer for the general citizenry than the Land of the Free And Gun Zealots. That would be the easy lesson to take away here. The more interesting question: “What’s up with New Zealand?” They island nation makes the top 10 in just about every crime stat category. Maybe we should send them all handguns to help make them safer.