Reality Check: Places With More Guns Don’t Have More Homicides


Robert VerBruggen writes:

In a new Voxsplainer on gun violence, Dylan Matthews claims:

Protestations of gun rights supporters aside, public health researchers who study firearms generally agree that increased firearm ownership rates are associated with higher rates of homicide. … Developed countries with more guns generally have more homicide; states within the US with more guns have more homicide…

"Legitimate self defense has absolutely nothing to do with the criminal misuse of guns." —Gerald Vernon, veteran firearms instructor

“Legitimate self defense has absolutely nothing to do with the criminal misuse of guns.”
—Gerald Vernon, veteran firearms instructor

The two assertions at the end are not true, and the first sentence explains why: If you want to give a good account of a debate about gun statistics, you don’t treat the consensus of “public health researchers” as gospel. The field is notorious for its anti-gun bias, and there’s a whole literature of work outside of it.

It’s true (as Matthews notes) that there are some studies showing guns to be associated with increased homicide once other factors have been statistically “controlled” (a highly subjective process that can be manipulated, even subconsciously, to make the data say whatever the researcher wants them to say). But there is no simple relationship between gun ownership and homicide rates as such, either among developed countries or among states in the U.S.

did the math on developed countries last year. Looking at a collection of countries that had been featured in a poorly conducted anti-gun study, I found that there were two major outliers: South Africa (which has a pretty typical gun-ownership rate but an astronomically high homicide rate) and the U.S. (which, as Matthews notes in a different “card,” is high in both gun ownership and homicide — though Matthews does not mention the biggest explanation for the high homicide rate, which is that the U.S., like South Africa, has a large, historically oppressed black population with high crime rates). When those two countries are booted from the analysis, this is what we end up with…(read more)


Robert VerBruggen is editor of Twitter:@RAVerBruggen

2 Comments on “Reality Check: Places With More Guns Don’t Have More Homicides”

  1. Jd Banks says:

    Look at Australia and Japan.

    • The Butcher says:

      Japan is an semi-authoritarian country, and so is Australia, if they forbid private gun ownership. A nation that doesn’t trust its citizens with guns isn’t trustworthy. Of course a nation wants to control or ban citizens from having firearms. Do you want the government to have a total monopoly on deadly force? Do you imagine that would make you safer?

      Look at Switzerland, guns per 100 residents, 45.7. global rank, 4th. That’s nearly half of the households in the nation.

      Note that the number of guns they have (a massive amount, by European standards, and so what?) doesn’t make Switzerland more murderous or dangerous. Banning guns doesn’t make a nation safer or less violent.

      Forbidding law-abiding citizens to protect themselves with firearms simply gives criminals freer reign to assault, rob, and rape people without fear. When Britain enacted strict gun laws, violent crime went up, and remains much higher than the U.S.

      The fact is, more guns doesn’t equal more homicides, nor does it equal more crime. It’s been demonstrated that higher gun ownership either has a neutral effect on crime, or can measurably reduce and prevent crime. What it does do, unfortunately, is contribute to more suicides. However, preventing self harm isn’t a valid reason to legislate more gun control.

      If gun control worked, Chicago would be Mayberry.

      The good news is, gun rights laws have become not more strict, but more liberal, in state after state. Only a few backward states (like Illinois) are lagging behind. All across the U.S.,gun ownership is increasing, year after year, and crime hasn’t gone up. It’s either stable, or dropping, nationwide.

      Except in states that have the most strict gun control. Gun control = more violence.

      To suggest that more guns = more crime is, while an easy and convenient assumption to make, it lacks factual support.

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