More statistical games

I’ve said it once before but it bears repeating now. (Apologies to the White Stripes)

They say the USA (3.2 per 1000) has too high a rate of gun-related homicides. That because of this I should fear for my life in Los Angeles. I guess I’d better pack up and move to Sierra Leone (2.3) or the Congo (1.6). Maybe someplace ultra-safe like Uganda (0.9), Serbia (0.5), or Turkmenistan (0.1 per 1000). Wait a minute… There seems to be something wrong with these statistics. Maybe they’re measuring the wrong thing…

Gun homicide per capita: what’s that?

So they have a wonderfully low gun death rate in Japan? Duh, they have no guns. Hey, here’s another way to save lives: which country has the lowest rate of highway deaths per year? The Marshall Islands!  (Duh, they have no cars.) Gun homicide is a bogus statistic: it varies according to the number of guns, among other factors. Which is useless in evaluating whether guns cause death.

Homicides per gun: a new benchmark?

Gun-related deaths per capita is just a red herring. A sales tool. (Yes, it does bear repeating.) Well, two can play at that game, son! Here’s a new statistic we can refer to: homicides per GUN, not per capita. If guns cause killing — or are strongly linked to killing — then this number should be fairly constant from one country to the next. But it is not.

If “guns kill people”, then the amount of homicide per gun should be consistent: twice as many guns means twice as many deaths. Yet the number varies drastically from one country to another. We are #20 worldwide for lowest homicides per gun, two places ahead of Australia. The only countries with fewer deaths per gun than the US are Austria, Norway, Luxembourg, United Arab Emirates, Germany, Iceland, Serbia, Sweden, Bahrain, Qatar, Greece, Yemen, Canada, Cyprus, France, Kuwait, Finland, Switzerland, and New Zealand.) For comparison, here are the rates for selected countries:

  • Austria: #1 (The fewest homicides per gun of any country.)
  • United States: #20
  • England and Wales: #49
  • Japan: #74
  • Nepal: #109

And here’s where we stand among the OECD countries:


Is homicides per gun a strange statistic to cite? No more strange than gun homicides per capita. (Hint: the important number is simply homicides per capita.)

There are a lot of strange statistics going around at the moment. Please feel free to use  homicides per gun in reply.


Primary data source: UNODC. Homicides per gun is derived from same.


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