Study shows countries with fewer guns per capita have fewer gun deaths

Following the latest mass shooting at an American school in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 students and two teachers were killed by an 18-year-old with an assault rifle, a comparison considering how Comparing the United States to other countries on child deaths caused by firearms is compelling.

As the independent nonprofit Children’s Defense Fund has pointed out, gun violence is now the leading cause of child death in the United States. He reports that there are nine fatal shootings of children a day, or one murder every two hours and thirty-six minutes. A minority of these killings involve school or mass shootings, the majority are individual child murders and are linked to routine crime and gang violence, and result in mass deaths of African-American children. Americans and minorities.

The United States is an extreme exception among high-income countries. The number of children killed by firearms is 36.5 times higher than in many other high-income countries, including Austria, Australia, Sweden, England and Wales, according to an analysis recently published by the New England Journal of Medicine. In recent years, international research has also proven that higher levels of gun ownership are strongly associated with higher rates of gun violence.

An audit by the Center for American Progress, a Democratic-leaning political and research organization, of the 50 states found a close correlation between states with the strictest gun laws and states with the lowest gun laws. lowest gun crime rates. Meanwhile, international research has compared national gun laws, rates of gun ownership, and rates of gun violence. The results are striking as the graph above suggests.

Interestingly, European societies that approximate US gun ownership rates, in terms of gun owners per 100,000 people (but with shotguns and shotguns rather than handguns) , like Finland and Norway, are among the safest societies in the world when it comes to gun violence.

Scholars speak of “civilized” and “decivilizing” gun cultures, cultures where gun ownership is associated with traditional values ​​of respect and responsibility, and others where the availability of guns to fire greatly strengthens criminal and unstable minds, adding to violence and chaos. High levels of social cohesion, low crime rates, and internationally high levels of trust in police and social institutions appear to reduce levels of firearm homicides.

The flip side of this finding, however, is that high gun ownership in countries like Finland, Sweden, and Switzerland have significantly higher rates of suicide using guns. The UK and Japan, which have some of the toughest gun laws in the world, still have the lowest firearm homicide rates, largely due to their virtual handgun bans. , the criminal weapon of choice. By contrast, the death toll in recent mass shootings in the United States has been significantly increased by perpetrators using assault rifles, with their larger magazines and rapid-fire capabilities.

Due to the new international focus of gun control research, broader issues have come to light. Researchers began to focus less on the firearm as an independent variable and instead began to address the contexts and different cultures of firearm use. They also began to recognize, as criminologists have always known, that the introduction of new laws rarely changes anything in itself – offenders break the laws.

Gun researchers are now increasingly focusing on broader “gun control regimes” that have an important role to play in increasing or decreasing levels of gun violence. These regimes include police and criminal justice systems, political accountability systems, social safety nets, comprehensive education provision and cultures of trust. And as the diagram above suggests, although the United States is considered the most outstanding gun culture among wealthy democratic nations, in terms of death rates, it is eclipsed by many other more poor and more conflictual, such as South Africa, Jamaica and Honduras.

In the United States, attempts to deal with shootings, but without restricting gun ownership in recent years, include stepping up surveillance – especially in schools where students, parents and teachers part of a network monitoring their colleagues and students. They look for signs of trouble and are able to sound the alarm. More ambitiously, the Violence Project sought to compile profiles of evidence, learning from what we already know about rampaging killers and trying to predict where their behavior, social media engagements and statements might sound the alarm.

However, it is now indisputable that more guns in a given country translate directly into more gun violence.

It is significant that the immediate reaction to the Ulvade school massacre tended to focus on narrow issues of school security and an apparent delay in police response, rather than the many underlying factors. that make the United States a relatively dangerous place for children.

Peter Squires is Professor of Criminology and Public Policy at the University of Brighton.