Living in America, it seems like almost every day I see yet another headline about gun violence. It got me thinking, “What about the rest of the world?” I mean, sure, we hear about terror attacks that happen, those events make the world news; but are there as many senseless gun killings around the world as there are in the States?
I set out to find the answer.
The countries that have the highest rates of gun violence around the world consist of those in Central America, Southeast Asia, Northern and Sub-Saharan African and the United States. In every graph from National Public Radio, the United States held a high rate of gun violence deaths that was equal to those of other nations around the world.
While those that had the lowest rates of gun violence deaths were Singapore, Japan, South Korea, China, Oman, United Kingdom, Iceland, Romania, Indonesia and Germany.
The United States’ owns more guns per capita than any other country. Yemen is the next highest at 55% per capita, Switzerland follows at 46% and Finland is the fourth highest at 45%. While the US makes up less than 5% of the world’s population, they also hold 31% of global mass shootings. The Philippines, which makes up roughly 1% of the world’s population holds about 18% of the global mass shootings.
While gun homicide rates are 25.2% times higher in the US than in other high-income countries worldwide, the countries with the highest gun-homicide rates are in Central and South America. The US gun laws are unlike many of their counter-parts, so called power countries in the rest of the world.
While the US has the right to bare arms in our constitution, Japan was the first country to impose gun laws. They did so as soon as guns entered the country. These laws are extremely strict: “No one shall possess a firearm or firearms or a sword or swords”(BBC). This is their law, it point blank states that no one is allowed a firearm. Now there are a few exceptions: anyone who wishes to have a firearm for hunting or sport shooting can, but at a cost. Any citizen that wishes to have a firearm must go through a lengthy licensing procedure. One where the citizen has to attend an all day class, take a written exam, pass a shooting range test of at least 95% or higher, have their mental health evaluated and get checked for drug usage, have their criminal record examined, see if they are connected to any extremist groups, and have their family and friends looked into.
To add to the already strict laws, the very few shops that even sell cartridges for guns have even more preventative measures to ensure that guns and bullets do not get into the wrong hands. Whenever someone wishes to buy more bullets, they must bring all of the spent bullets back to the shop from their last visit. All of these are catalogued as well so that someone cannot go to a different shop to buy more without first returning the old ones.
Another vast difference in the way that Japan is ran compared to the States is that while Japanese officers do carry guns with them, they rarely use them. They are a last ditch effort when they are used. In 2015, only six shots were fired by police nationwide. This is a major contrast compared to the States version of militarizing their police.
Much like Japan, if you are in the UK and in search of getting a firearm, you have to spend hours filling out paperwork and providing to the police that you are not a danger to society. This consists of specific questions as to “Why do you want a gun?” to checking your mental state, alcoholism, drug abuse or even a personality disorder. Police also have to determine if your answer is “a good cause” like a farmer wishing to keep predators away. The application to get a firearm is also much harder than the application to get a shotgun. When a citizen finally does obtain their license, the certificate is only valid for five years. And if you are to move to a different part of the UK, you have to have an entirely new license that proves you are able to have a firearm there as well.
Unlike Japan, the UK has had a few instances of gun violence in the late 1980s when there was a massacre in Hungerford that led to the banning of all semi-automatic rifles and a school shooting in 1996 that lead to Parliament banning all handguns and creating a mandatory 5-year jail sentence for possession of one.
Just as the UK enacted laws after there were mass shooting, Australia did as well. Strict gun laws were put into place after 1996 when there was a mass shooting in Tasmania that killed 35 people and injured 23. The new rules on gun ownerships were tightened and supported by Australians who were disgusted by the attack. One of the new laws was a buyback law that brought in more than 1 million illicit firearms. With new laws of uniform gun registration, repudiation of self-defense as a legitimate reason to have a firearm, locked storage as a preventative, a band on private gun sales and civilian ownership of semiautomatic rifles and pump action shot guns were met with standardized penalties.
As of February 2018, new research has come from Australia that showed that prior to 1996, there were approximately 3 mass shootings in Australia every four years. Had new laws not come into play in the late 1990s, this trend would have continued and there would have been many more fatalities.
The gun laws in the UK are extremely strict but the strictest gun laws in Europe happen to be in Germany. Germans do not have the fundamental right to bear arms. To get a gun, a German must first obtain a firearms ownership license, be 18 years of older, pass numerous tests including special skills, psychiatric evaluations, background checks and more. For every weapon that a German citizen owns, they have to have a separate license as well. While the laws and processes to get a firearm in Germany are strict, many citizens do still own guns. From 2009-2016 there were no mass shootings in the entire country.
Japan, the UK, Australia and Germany have all been plagued by war torn history. From World War I, World War II, civil wars, and invasions, each country has seen and experienced the death and devastation that can come from multiple people owning guns and using those guns to spread terror and violence.
Much like these nations, the US has a war-torn history. From invading back in the 1600s, to civil wars in the 1800s, to the last century when more and more people are taking guns with them as a way to showing control through violence.
If nothing else is learned in looking at the US’s history of gun violence, we can see from other countries who have had just as bloody of a past, but not nearly as devastating a future.