When you get into a discussion with “Gun Safety” advocates, they usually start by knowingly, solemnly intoning that the US has some variant of “the highest gun murder rate in the developed world”.
In response to which I always ask two questions:
- Why just “western, developed countries?”: The United States’ murder rate is actually in the bottom 2/3 of the world; with 3.8 murders overall per 100,099 people, we rank #121 in terms of murders overall. And isn’t murder, murder? Isn’t the life of a Honduran, or a Venezuelan, or an Indian or Russian, worth exactly the life of an American? Isn’t their murder just as grave an offense?
- Why just “firearms” murders?: In the immortal words of Archie Bunker:
Are we to believe that murders committed with guns are more heinous than other murders? That murders with knives, clubs, gasoline or bare hands are somehow of less weight than those using firearms? That’s utterly illogical.
The stated goal of comparing only “western, industrialized” countries, we’re told, would be to “compare apples to apples”. The real goal is to try to cherrypick results. Of course the US will have a higher murder rate than Denmark, Sweden or Belgium – all of them are small, socially and culturally homogenous countries. And of course we’ll have a higher murder rate than, say, Japan – a larger nation, but with a socially homogenous population (that, incidentally, tolerates police powers that’d make the ACLU yak up it’s collective skull).
So the correct response is to really compare apples to apples: large, socially-diverse societies with at least a pretense of individual rights (and it may be a thin pretense indeed).
There, the US and it’s 3.8/100,000 murder rate (about 2/3 of which are firearm murders) looks pretty good compared to other large, industralized, socially and culturally heterogenous nations and the frictions and stresses they lend to the situation:
- Argentina: 5.5
- Brazil: 25.2
- Russia: 9.0
- South Africa: 31.0
- India: 3.5 (and virtually no civilian gun ownership)
But I got to thinking: What if we took the next step, and accounted for the effect of social and cultural diversity and history in the US murder rate?
What effect would that have?
We’ll tackle that next week:
- Monday: We’ll look at the effect urban crime has on America’s murder rate.
- Tuesday: We’ll look at the murder rate in the Deep South.
- Wednesday: We’ll see what the US’ murder rate would be without its biggest social pathologies.