in our post last week we discussed about the correlation between guns and homicides. We also came into the conclusion that there really is no correlation, but that there are countries where murders occur more frequently and that the weapon of choice in some places just happens to be a gun.
But what is the actual reason behind this? Maybe things can be changed if we find out why people grab the gun. The highest amount of privately owned firearms in Europe are in countries that still have or just recently discontinued compulsory military service for men. But even thought the amount of guns available is high, they are not used for killing people. In fact, the most homicides committed by guns in Europe happen in countries where it’s quite rare to even own a firearm. Maybe those who are trained for using weapons, are much more responsible in using them.
Since Finland turned out to be the country where there are most privately owned guns per 100 000 people of all the European countries, yet the amount homicides made by firearms is relatively low, we decided to make a little comparison between Finland and the USA. Both of these are 1st world countries, so the comparison wouldn’t be too harsh even though the societies and politics have differences.
Besides the fact that Finland has ongoing conscription unlike the US, the domestic policies diverge as Finland is often being labelled as a social democrat country due to its common welfare covering education, health care and social benefits for its citizens.
While the actual number of murders in Finland per year is 89 compared to 12 253 in the US, it may be more fruitful to compare these figures in relation to the population. As we can see, the murder rate is still 2.35 times higher in the US than in Finland.
When we compare the amount of murders committed by firearms, the gap gets even wider. The difference here is 7.4 times greater.
This can’t be explained alone by the fact that there are twice the amount of privately owned firearms in the US than in Finland per every 100 people. Or maybe it does? Statistically over 84 % of the people in the US own a gun, in reality percentage of gun owners is likely to be less since people who own guns own more than one on average.
Let’s take a wider scope and have a look at this. Comparing these two countries to Honduras, which is the first country on the list of the amount of homicides committed by firearms in relation to its population in the whole wide world, we can see that something doesn’t really add up. There are less privately owned firearms in Honduras per 100 people than in either of our 1st world countries as there are only 6.19 guns for every hundred Honduran. There are 13.6 times more guns per 100 people in the US than in Honduras.
For some reason these limited resources of firearms in Honduras convert to a great figure in murders made by firearms which is 27 times greater than in the US.
So let’s get back to the US. We can see that the situation could be far worse, but as Honduras is a third world country, we really don’t want to be comparing the situation in the US to that. Poverty, natural disasters and politics have probably played their role in Honduras. These figures also tell us that there is very little if any correlation between people owning guns and homicides made by guns so there must be more to it. There is data available related to guns, crime and gun laws on state level in the US, so let’s take a look at that.
Does gun ownership (% of people owning a gun in a state) alone contribute to murder rates? There seems to be little correlation here. However, if we have a look at the firearm murder rate over the actual amount of people owning a gun, it seems that the firearm murder rate gets stable and higher with higher amount of people owning guns. Larger proportion of population owning guns seems to have less effect than having larger total amount of guns around.
What this really means is that if two states are compared where the same percentage of people own a gun, it’s slightly more probable that fire arm murder rates are higher in the state which is more populous. However as you can see in the chart the difference demonstrates itself as steadier mid-high level of murders rather than very high murder rates. When the amount of firearms is low there’s more dispersion in murder rates and even some of the highest individual murder rates are in states with lower amount of guns. None of the top 5 firearm murder rates come from the top 5 states in terms of people owning guns.
With smaller total amount of people owning guns you are likely to produce the lowest firearm murder rates even if the percentage of people owning guns would be high. The picture would be pretty similar when compared to the amount of murders in general. It’s probably safe to say that you can’t hit the extreme lows if there are high amounts of people with guns.
Where does this leave us? High murder rates still happen with low amount of guns, and we think that speaks for the fact that we are missing something that is more important than mere gun ownership and amounts of guns.
How about laws then? Most important laws restricting gun ownership contain the permit to purchase a gun. Comparing the average firearm murder rates over the permit to purchase a gun it seems that the lower figures are in states where permit is required for buying a hand gun whereas the highest rates come from those states where permits are required for both hand guns and riffles.
What should we think of this? This sounds so peculiar that we must have a closer look at this! Let’s take a look at individual states and group them by permits. As we can see on the chart below, Washington DC spikes on the figures. In addition to purchase permit DC has pretty much all other legal restrictions in place as well. The unique circumstances there have led to a situation so extreme that not even the laws can help and the same can be seen globally in places with similar problems – in extreme cases laws have little impact.
If you look at the number of people owning a gun, DC has minuscule numbers and also the percentage of people owning a gun is lowest in the country!
As we need to get to the bottom of this subject we are going to leave Washington DC out and look at the chart showing the firearms murder rates and permits without it. Things really look different now!