clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Obama is right: gun violence is much worse in the US than other advanced countries

In response to the Wednesday night shooting at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, President Barack Obama highlighted a troubling fact: America has far more gun violence than its developed peers around the world.

"This type of mass violence doesn't happen in other advanced countries," Obama said on Thursday. "It doesn't happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is within our power to do something about it. I say this recognizing that the politics of this town foreclose a lot of those avenues. But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it."

Obama is right: gun violence is way more common in the US than in its developed peers — and it's not even close. This chart, compiled using United Nations data collected by the Guardian's Simon Rogers, shows that America far and away leads Canada, Japan, and several European counterparts in gun homicides:

But why does the US have so many more gun homicides than other advanced countries? One possible explanation: Americans are much more likely to own guns than their peers around the world. And the empirical research shows places with more guns have more homicides.

According to survey data compiled by Rogers, the US had 88.8 guns per 100 people in 2007 — compared with 54.8 in the second-closest country, Yemen. Reddit user Phillybdizzle mapped Rogers's data, showing just how much the US stands out compared to the rest of the world:

gun ownership map Phillybdizzle/Reddit

Criminal justice experts widely recognize this is a result of cultural and policy decisions that have made firearms far more available in America than in most of the world. And Obama wants the general public to recognize that, too — and push lawmakers to do something about it.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.