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Many comparisons have been made between the homicide rates of the United States and various European countries.  They have been made between members of the G-8, or among “developed” or “advanced” countries, or “economically developed” countries, though all of these comparisons suffer from various unstated assumptions, typically that economic development is a prime predictor of homicide rates., which clearly is not correct. The above chart was created from UNODC data . . .

It’s a comparison of homicide rates among new world countries where the dominant or official language is English. This creates an interesting set of common characteristics. All of these countries were inhabited only by pre-Columbian immigrants a little more than 500 years ago. All of them were colonized by Europeans, Africans (as a result of the slave trade, in some form or another), and, to a much lesser extent, Asians. So the current populations are now a significant mix of people descended from European, pre-Columbian, African, and Asian cultures. The pre-Columbian cultures were mostly destroyed and displaced over the last 500 years and their languages have been mostly displaced by English.  I was unable to find UNODC data for the Falkland Islands.

Interestingly, the greatest survival of pre-Columbian languages and cultures in these countries exists in Canada and the United States.

The chart reveals the enormous problems with international comparisons of crime and homicide rates. Differences in culture, data collection, and definitions make comparisons very difficult, perhaps to the point of meaninglessness. Culture is far more important than method or economic condition.

Consider one aspect of the law that is often linked to homicide rates — firearm regulation. The U.S. Virgin Islands is listed separately from the United States because it is counted separately in the UNODC data.  Perhaps that’s because the territory was only purchased by the United States in 1917. The USVI and Belize are tied for the highest homicide rates of the countries listed. Both entities have extremely restrictive laws regulating the possession and carry of firearms.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have Canada and the United States.  The firearm laws in Canada are much less restrictive than those in the U.S. Virgin Islands or Belize.  The firearm laws in the United States are, of course, the least restrictive of the group. The comparison supports what other researchers have found — if firearms regulation has any effect on the overall homicide rate, it is not easily discerned from international comparisons.

©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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    • Lies, damned lies, and statistics.

      Yes, cherry-picking is what the gun-grabbers do. You will even find it on our side if you look hard enough, though you’d have to dig pretty deep and search pretty far and wide to even find any. The difference is that cherry-picking is literally the only thing that the gun-grabbers do.


    • Demographic information is dumb like that. I mean you can say “more left handed black people from west of the Prime Meridian shoot more people than some other equally obscure group” and eventually drum up an argument against black gun ownership or ownership for left handed people or…for whatever demographic you pick in whatever context.

      I find studies to be flawed as a result. Cherry picking is the fashion these days.

      I applaud Dean but I just can’t see people not poking at specific demographics to discredit this in either direction. Charts are just convenient interpretation of information. What’s charted us arbitrary, sadly.

      • The problem is that studies like the one presented in this post are suppose to be a data point to see if further study would have value. Unfortunately they are today taken as absolute truth and fact. There is more to those numbers other than gun laws. There are social and economic issues in play. Gun control laws like many such stupid laws are a reaction by politicians to make believe they are doing something while the underlying true issue is probably much more difficult and complex and beyond their ability to handle.

        Optics and emotions are used more today because many of the people today are to stupid, to emotional or to busy to understand what underlying the numbers presented. Too many people believe the self appointed experts.

    • Yes, that is indeed edited and selected data. Consider this:-

      The above chart was created from UNODC data . . .

      It’s a comparison of homicide rates among new world countries where the official language is English.

      No, it isn’t, and the result is distortions like “All of them were colonized by Europeans, Africans (as a result of the slave trade, in some form or another), and, to a much lesser extent, Asians [emphasis added]”.

      That table has omitted all the “new world countries where the official language is English” that are in or near South America, e.g. the Falkland Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana. The last two have a high proportion of Asians; Asians are probably the majority in Guyana.

      • The Falkland Islands have a population of under 3000 people; you cannot meaningfully measure the homicide rate of the islands. Given that they are almost entirely of European stock, I’d bet that their homicide rate is on the order of 1-5 in 100,000 – which would mean you’d probably see a murder there somewhere on the order of once per decade.

  1. There is another document that the UN puts out that is also very informative and related to this subject. It is labeled “Guns per Capita by Country”. Looking at that one along with the one you mentioned is very enlightening. The correlation between the two is almost non-existant. That is to say, that the countries where there are very few guns per 100,000 people are not the least violent. At least that is true in many cases. Venezuela is a great example. Very high homicide rate and very low gun ownership rate. Of course that is probably because the government there is busy killing off it’s own citizens if they don’t agree with it’s policies. Brazil is another one that has even lower gun ownership on average but has an intentional homicide rate that is about 3.5 times higher than in the U.S. But, of course, neither of these is an English speaking country so I guess they don’t count ? Or perhaps they are excluded from many conversations because they don’t support the theory that more guns automatically cause more homicides. +

    • Mexico is an excellent example. The only legal gun store in Mexico is in Mexico City, and it is run by the Mexican Army. (Of course, Eric Holder and the ATF provide another source of guns to the drug cartels.) Mexico prohibits the ownership of any “military caliber” guns (except by the criminal classes such as the drug cartels, the Mexican police, and the Mexican Army). Mexico’s criminal homicide RATE is 21.5/100,000, and their actual # of murders in 2012 was 26,037. Pretty good argument for strict gun control, right?

  2. In any argument both sides will attempt to “cherry-pick” data that supports their argument. No surprise. This dataset has a plausible claim to being objective. There is a plausible argument that the deep cultural roots (Anglo Saxon, African, language, legal system principles) of these countries are common while divergent in some other respects (culture in the last 100 – 200 years, economic circumstances, etc.) And, of course, different in per-capita availability of arms.
    The overwhelming conclusion is that More-Guns=>Less-Crime. Comes as no surprise to us.

    Correlation does not imply causation. Nevertheless, this correlation strongly refutes the countervailing argument that More-Guns intuitively promotes homicide.

    Similar comparisons might be made among other analogous groupings such as European countries, African countries, Latin-American countries, Asian countries, Middle-Eastern countries. I anticipate they would reveal a similar pattern.

    The Anti’s will never conceded the point; but, they don’t matter. Those who matter are American voters who have yet to form a concrete opinion. We PotG need the support of American voters who have not yet drunk the Anti-Kool-Aid.
    Simple depictions, such as this one, serve our purpose: To quickly convey the facts that homicide in the US is relatively-speaking not a big problem; and so, gun-homicide is not a big problem. And, our comparatively good position on homicide is perfectly compatible with an overwhelming arsenal in citizens’ hands.

    And, by the way, such is also the case in Switzerland, Finland, Norway, Sweden and some other countries. Guns are perfectly compatible with public safety. Moreover, when you think about it from a particular perspective (self-defense) it is intuitive that a well-armed victim is perfectly compatible with public safety.

  3. If you compare the murder rate of the US to that of Sweden, the US looks pretty bad.

    If you compare the murder rate of Americans of Swedish extraction to that of Sweden, they look pretty similar.

    • And if you exclude the homicide rate of US Minority Urban Youths (drug gangs shooting each other and relatives), the US homicide rate is about the same as Lichtenstein. This explains why the US media never publicizes the daily murders in Chicago, Oakland, LA, D.C., Detroit, NYC, and other urban hellholes.

      • The white homicide rate in the US is roughly half of the national homicide rate, i.e. about 2.3 per 100,000. Blacks commit roughly 50% of homicides in the US, while whites commit almost all of the other half (Native Americans and Asians commit a negligible proportion of homicides; Native Americans make up only about 1% of the population, while Asians are just very non-violent).

        Note that hispanics are considered to be whites for the above purposes, though this doesn’t distort the data as much as you’d think; native-born hispanics are about as criminal as native-born whites are, which is to say, not very, which probably means that in 20 years, we’ll see a tapering of crime from that source as well.

  4. The topic is interesting. As an American I’m throughly tired of having to explain to Europeans (where I spend much of my time) the nature of U.S. homicide rates. I and my family, over many many generations, have nothing in common culturally with the various groups that take to killing each other. In the U.S. you can identify the small collection of high-murder-rate urban zip codes easily. As I explain to my Euro-friends, “My township is adjacent to a big city, and to a neighborhood in that city with a very high murder rate. There hasn’t been more than one murder per 100,000 in my township (ten-year rolling average) in 100 years.”

    It’s that simple. We’re safer than France. But we have plenty of guns. Yet we also have a culture (across ethnic lines) of not tolerating violent behavior. Our courts in this county take violent behavior and crime much more seriously than the neighboring big city. So? So criminals and drug dealers do their living and business on the other side of the county line.

    Violence is a cultural issue. If parents encourage the idea that going to fight or shoot other people is “just takin’ care of business,” they’ll get more and more of the same. If they live by “don’t rat,” their neighborhoods will continue to harbor, even attract, criminals. It isn’t about black or white or hispanic. I have neighbors who identify as black. They are pillars of the community. It is about …..culture.

  5. I wonder why it is that the homicide rate in the US Virgin Islands is so much higher than for the British Virgin Islands. Never having been to either, I would natural assume that the demographics would be about the same.

    • Demographics are similar, but the USVI have almost 4x the population. My understanding the is more heavily developed islands of St Thomas & St Croix are where most of the crime is while St Johns is much better.

  6. While I am not sure I see the value in this chart, I have to say I was a little surprised that so many Caribbean islands are apparently murderopolises.

    • Because the anti’s like to point out how our homicide rate is so high compared to other “developed”, “first world” or “advanced” nations because for some reason criminals in those types of countries are more civilized compared to criminals in third world countries.

      Other common stat-skewers used by the anti’s:
      – Suicide deaths by gun. If guns could be directly linked to causing suicides, they’d have a point but Japan in all it’s gun-free utopianess has one of the highest suicides rates in the world.

      – “Children” ages 0-19 (I’ve seen as high as 24). I get it, old people like to call younger people kids but anyone old enough to serve in the military, vote, smoke cigs or even drink is not a child. These children they’re trying to save likely have children of their own.

  7. Billy Johnson did a AmidsTheNoise video discussing the US and gun ownership and gun violence. In rural areas with high legal gun ownership gun murders are low and in urban areas with low legal gun ownership murders are high. That is simply a matter of population. Start including race and gender and OFWG have the most guns and commit the least murders next to OFWGals.

    Anecdotally, I dated a Jamaican chick who knew more people personally that were murdered than I know of being murdered in the history of the town I live in. They used machetes and then guns to finish the job in at least two cases as she relates the story. So is it gun violence or machete violence and does it matter that the gun finished the murder?

  8. Belize needs to get a handle on that homicide rate if they are expecting their pretty “come live here, we have low real estate prices” commercials to work. I checked a while back, their gang violence is off the chain, and you’ll have to play very pretty with the government to get any type of legal inferior gun.

  9. They also never compare the U.S. to other “developed” nations like Sweden, Japan, Belgium or Japan where the suicide rates are far higher than here because they have almost no gun ownership and would skew the comparison BACK to balance.

    Ray from Bloombergia

    • Oh no, they don’t forget Japan at all. They love to tout how non-existent their [Japan] gun violence is but will calmly toss out the 30K/yr gun deaths the U.S. has even though 20K are suicides.

  10. Common sense should prevail. Treat your guns with respect, handle them according to the best safety practices and secure them from unauthorized persons when they are not under your immediate control.
    Regardless of the law, the ultimate responsibility rests with the gun owner.
    Conversely, if some meth head breaks into your home at zero dark thirty, remember, it’s better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6.

  11. This famous meme of comparing the United States to….any other country, is a tool for politicians. The problem with comparing America to any other country is, there is no other country to use as a fair comparison. It’s better to not to play the apples to oranges charade. Besides, this sort of comparison is almost always associated with somebody trying to indict America for something it does, did, or didn’t do, or refuses to do, and we’re always the bad guy. English speaking countries? What kind of a metric is that?

  12. America is more diverse than Canada, and the increased overall U.S. murder rate is due to the high rate of murders among the people who provide the increased disversity.


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