Gun violence

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For U.S. gun violence, see Gun violence in the United States.
Graph showing the rate of gun deaths per capita in the United States and Australia between the years 1990 and 2012.
Time series showing rates of gun deaths per capita (all sources) in the US and Australia (1990-2012)

Gun violence is violence committed with the use of a gun (firearm or small arm). It may or may not be considered criminal. Criminal gun violence includes homicide (except when and where ruled justifiable), assault with a deadly weapon, and suicide, or attempted suicide, depending on jurisdiction. Non-criminal gun violence may include accidental or unintentional injury or death. Included in this subject are statistics regarding military or para-military activities, as well as the actions of civilians.

According to, 75 percent of the world's 875 million guns are civilian controlled.[1] Globally, millions are wounded through the use of guns.[1] Assault by firearm resulted in 180,000 deaths in 2013 up from 128,000 deaths in 1990.[2] There was an additionally 47,000 unintentional firearm deaths in 2013.[2]

Levels of gun violence vary greatly among geographical regions, countries, and even subnationally.[3] The United States has the highest rate of gun related deaths per capita among developed countries,[4]:29 though it also has the highest rate of gun ownership and the highest rate of officers. Mother Jones has found that, in the United States, "gun death rates tend to be higher in states with higher rates of gun ownership." It has also found that "[g]un death rates are generally lower in states with restrictions such as assault-weapons bans or safe-storage requirements."[5]


According to a 2007 paper by Krause and Muggah, the homicides were in an armed violence. They cite the World Health Organization definition of violence:

The intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation.

Krause and Muggah clarify that arms include bladed weapons, blunt objects, explosives, and other instruments, but that guns (in their paper, small arms and light weapons) "are disproportionately used to commit violence" worldwide. They break armed violence into five categories: inter-personal, collective, criminal, conflict, and institutional (or state).[6]

In the United States, the term "gun crime" was common, especially in the years leading up to the passage of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994, which expired in 2004.[7] Since then, "gun violence" is the commonly used term.[8]

Gun Rights advocates do not use the term Gun Violence as they see this as ignoring violence that stems from non-Gun related sources. They also mention that no such term exists for other forms of "armed violence" such as "Knife Violence" or "Bludgeoning Instrument Violence." Numerous different terms have been proposed by supporters of Gun Control with the aim of "...looking for a less politically charged term for firearm regulation..." [9]


A number of ideas have been proposed on how to lessen the incidence of gun violence.

Some propose keeping a gun at home to keep one safer. Mother Jones has found that "[o]wning a gun has been linked to higher risks of homicide, suicide, and accidental death by gun."[5] Some propose keeping a gun for self-defense, however Mother Jones reports that [a] Philadelphia study found that the odds of an assault victim being shot were 4.5 times greater if he carried a gun" and that "[h]is odds of being killed were 4.2 times greater" when armed.[5] Other studies have concluded that firearm possession provides a deterrent benefit. "Research conducted by Professors James Wright and Peter Rossi, for a landmark study funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, points to the armed citizen as possibly the most effective deterrent to crime in the nation. Wright and Rossi questioned over 1,800 felons serving time in prisons across the nation" [10] Others propose arming civilians to counter mass shootings. FBI research shows that between 2000 and 2013 "In 5 incidents (3.1%), the shooting ended after armed individuals who were not law enforcement personnel exchanged gunfire with the shooters." [11] Another proposal is to expand self defense laws for cases where a person is being aggressed upon, although "those policies have been linked to a 7 to 10% increase in homicides" (that is, shootings where self-defense cannot be claimed).[5]



A 1992 U.S. medical journal report shows an association between household firearm ownership and gun suicide rates, finding that individuals in a firearm owning home are close to five times more likely to commit suicide than those individuals who do not own firearms.[12] However, a 1996 New Zealand study found no significant relationship between household guns and suicide.[13] Assessing data from 14 developed countries where gun ownership levels were known, the Harvard Injury Control Research Center found statistically significant correlations between those levels and suicide rates. However, the parallels were lost when data from additional nations was included.[14]:30 During the 1980s and 1990s, the rate of adolescent suicides with guns caught up with adult rates, and the 75-and-older rate rose above all others.[4]:20–21[15] The use of firearms in suicides ranges from less than 10 percent in Australia[16] to 50 percent in the United States, where it is the most common method[17] and where suicides outnumber homicides 2-to-1.[18]

According to U.S. criminologist Gary Kleck, studies that try to link gun ownership to victimology often fail to account for the presence of guns owned by other people.[19] Research by economists John Lott of the U.S. and John Whitley of Australia indicates that safe-storage laws do not appear to affect juvenile accidental gun deaths or suicides.[20] A committee of the U.S. National Research Council said ecological studies on violence and firearms ownership provide contradictory evidence. The committee wrote: "[Existing] research studies and data include a wealth of descriptive information on homicide, suicide, and firearms, but, because of the limitations of existing data and methods, do not credibly demonstrate a causal relationship between the ownership of firearms and the causes or prevention of criminal violence or suicide."[21]

Intentional homicide[edit]

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) defines intentional homicide as "acts in which the perpetrator intended to cause death or serious injury by his or her actions." This excludes deaths: related to conflicts (war); caused by recklessness or negligence; or justifiable, such as in self-defense or by law enforcement in the line of duty.[3] A 2009 report by the Geneva Declaration using UNODC data showed that worldwide firearms were used in an average of 60 percent of all homicides.[22]:67 In the U.S. in 2011, 67 percent of homicide victims were killed by a firearm: 66 percent of single-victim homicides and 79 percent of multiple-victim homicides.[23]

Domestic violence[edit]

Some gun control advocates say that the strongest evidence linking availability of guns to death and injury is found in domestic violence studies, often referring to those by public health policy analyst Arthur Kellermann. In response to suggestions by some that homeowners would be wise to acquire firearms for protection from home invasions, Kellermann investigated in-home homicides in three cities over five years. He found that the risk of a homicide was in fact slightly higher in homes where a handgun was present. The data showed that the risk of a crime of passion or other domestic dispute ending in a fatal injury was higher when a gun was readily available (essentially loaded and unlocked) compared to when no gun was readily available. Kellerman said this increase in mortality overshadowed any protection a gun might have deterring or defending against burglaries or invasions. He also concluded that further research of domestic violence causes and prevention are needed.[24]

Critics of Kellermann's study say that it is more directly a study of domestic violence than of gun ownership. Gary Kleck and others dispute the work.[25][26] Kleck says that few of the homicides that Kellermann studied were committed with guns belonging to the victim or members of his or her household, and that it was implausible that victim household gun ownership contributed to their homicide. Instead, according to Kleck, the association that Kellermann found between gun ownership and victimization reflected that people who live in more dangerous circumstances are more likely to be murdered, but also were more likely to have acquired guns for self-protection.[27]

Robbery and assault[edit]

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime defines robbery as the theft of property by force or threat of force. Assault is defined as a physical attack against the body of another person resulting in serious bodily injury. In the case of gun violence, the definitions become more specific and include only robbery and assault committed with the use of a firearm.[28] Firearms are used in this threatening capacity four to six times more than firearms used as a means of protection in fighting crime.[29][30] Hemenway's figures are disputed by other academics, who assert there are many more defensive uses of firearms than criminal uses. See John Lott's "More Guns, Less Crime".

In terms of occurrence, developed countries have similar rates of assaults and robberies with firearms, whereas the rates of homicides by firearms vary greatly by country.[4][31]

Costs of gun violence[edit]

Violence committed with guns leads to significant public health and economic costs. Phillip J. Cook estimated that such violence costs $100 billion annually in the United States.[4] Emergency medical care is a major contributor to the monetary costs of such violence. It was determined in a study that for every firearm death in the USA for one year from 1 June 1992, an average of three firearm-related injuries were treated in hospital emergency departments.[32] Assault by firearm resulted in 180,000 deaths worldwide in 2013, up from 128,000 deaths worldwide in 1990.[2] There were 47,000 unintentional firearm deaths worldwide in 2013.[2]

Psychological costs of violence committed with guns are also clearly documented. Psychologist James Garbarino, who studies children in the U.S. and internationally, found that individuals who experience violence are prone to mental and other health problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and sleep deprivation. These problems increase for those who experience violence as children.[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Alpers, Philip; Wilson, Marcus (2013). "Global Impact of Gun Violence". Sydney School of Public Health, The University of Sydney. Retrieved February 25, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d GBD 2013 Mortality and Causes of Death, Collaborators (17 December 2014). "Global, regional, and national age-sex specific all-cause and cause-specific mortality for 240 causes of death, 1990-2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013.". Lancet 385: 117–71. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(14)61682-2. PMC 4340604. PMID 25530442. 
  3. ^ a b "Global Study on Homicide 2011". United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Retrieved December 18, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c d Cook, Philip J.; Ludwig, Jens (2000). Gun Violence: The Real Costs. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195137934. OCLC 45580985. 
  5. ^ a b c d
  6. ^ Krause, Keith; Muggah, Robert (2007). "Background Note 1: Measuring the Scale and Distribution of Armed Violence" (PDF). Retrieved February 25, 2014. 
  7. ^ "Targeting Criminals, not Gun Owners". National Rifle Association of America. August 17, 2006. 
  8. ^ "About Brady". Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. 2013. 
  9. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^$FILE/SenState0305AttachB.pdf
  11. ^
  12. ^ Kellerman, Arthur L.; Rivara, Frederick P. (August 13, 1992). "Suicide in the Home in Relation to Gun Ownership". The New England Journal of Medicine (Massachusetts Medical Society) 327 (7): 467–472. doi:10.1056/NEJM199208133270705. PMID 1308093. 
  13. ^ Beautrais, Annette L.; Joyce, Peter R.; Mulder, Roger T. (December 1996). "Access to firearms and the risk of suicide: a case control study". Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 30 (6): 741–748. doi:10.3109/00048679609065040. PMID 9034462. 
  14. ^ Miller, Matthew; Hemenway, David (2001). "Firearm Prevalence and the Risk of Suicide: A Review" (PDF). Harvard Health Policy Review (Exploring Policy in Health Care (EPIHC)) 2 (2): 29–37. One study found a statistically significant relationship between gun ownership levels and suicide rate across 14 developed nations (e.g. where survey data on gun ownership levels were available), but the association lost its statistical significance when additional countries were included. 
  15. ^ Ikeda, Robin M.; Gorwitz, Rachel; James, Stephen P.; Powell, Kenneth E.; Mercy, James A. (1997). "Fatal Firearm Injuries in the United States 1962-1994". Violence Surveillance Summary (National Center for Injury Prevention and Control) 3. 
  16. ^ Harrison, James E.; Pointer, Sophie; Elnour, Amr Abou (July 2009). "A review of suicide statistics in Australia" (PDF). Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 
  17. ^ McIntosh, JL; Drapeau, CW (November 28, 2012). "U.S.A. Suicide: 2010 Official Final Data" (PDF). American Association of Suicidology. Retrieved February 25, 2014. 
  18. ^ "Twenty Leading Causes of Death Among Persons Ages 10 Years and Older, United States". National Suicide Statistics at a Glance. Centers for Disease Control. 2009. Retrieved February 17, 2013. 
  19. ^ Kleck, Gary (2004). "Measures of Gun Ownership Levels of Macro-Level Crime and Violence Research" (PDF). Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency (Sage Publications) 41 (1): 3–36. doi:10.1177/0022427803256229. NCJ 203876. Studies that attempt to link the gun ownership of individuals to their experiences as victims (e.g., Kellermann, et al. 1993) do not effectively determine how an individual's risk of victimization is affected by gun ownership by other people, especially those not living in the gun owner's own household. 
  20. ^ Lott, John R.; Whitley, John E. (2001). "Safe-Storage Gun Laws: Accidental Deaths, Suicides, and Crime" (PDF). Journal of Law and Economics 44 (2): 659–689. doi:10.1086/338346. It is frequently assumed that safe-storage laws reduce accidental gun deaths and total suicides. We find no support that safe-storage laws reduce either juvenile accidental gun deaths or suicides. 
  21. ^ National Research Council (2004). "Executive Summary". In Wellford, Charles F.; Pepper, John V.; Petrie, Carol V. Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. ISBN 978-0-309-09124-4. 
  22. ^ "Lethal Encounters: Non-conflict Armed Violence" (PDF). Global Burden of Armed Violence 2008. Geneva, Switzerland: Geneva Declaration Secretariat. September 2008. pp. 67–88. ISBN 978-2-8288-0101-4.  by Geneva Declaration editors using UNODC data.
  23. ^ Cooper, Alexia; Smith, Erica L. (December 30, 2013). "Homicide in the U.S. Known to Law Enforcement, 2011". U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved February 28, 2014. 
  24. ^ Kellerman, Arthur L.; Rivara, Frederick P. (October 7, 1993). "Gun ownership as a risk factor for homicide in the home". The New England Journal of Medicine (Massachusetts Medical Society) 329 (15): 1084–1091. doi:10.1056/NEJM199310073291506. PMID 8371731. 
  25. ^ Suter, Edgar A. (March 1994). "Guns in the medical literature--a failure of peer review". Journal of the Medical Association of Georgia 83 (13): 133–148. PMID 8201280. 
  26. ^ Kates, Don B.; Schaffer, Henry E.; Lattimer, John K.; Murray, George B.; Cassem, Edwin H. (1995). Kopel, David B., ed. Guns: Who Should Have Them?. New York: Prometheus Books. pp. 233–308. ISBN 9780879759582.  in chapter "Bad Medicine: Doctors and Guns." Orig. pub. 1994 in Tennessee Law Review as "Guns and Public Health: Epidemic of Violence or Pandemic of Propaganda?"
  27. ^ Kleck, Gary (February 2001). "Can Owning a Gun Really Triple the Owner's Chances of being Murdered?". Homicide Studies (SAGE) 5 (1): 64–77. doi:10.1177/1088767901005001005. 
  28. ^ "United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime: Data". UNODC. August 29, 2013. Retrieved March 1, 2014. 
  29. ^ Hemenway, D; David Hemenway, Deborah Azrael (2000). "The Relative Frequency of Offensive and Defensive Gun Uses: Results from a National Survey". Violence and Victims 15 (3): 257–272. PMID 11200101.  Cite uses deprecated parameter |coauthors= (help)
  30. ^ Hemenway, David; Azrael, Deborah; Miller, Matthew (2000). "Gun use in the United States: results from two national surveys". Injury Prevention 6 (4): 263–267. doi:10.1136/ip.6.4.263. PMC 1730664. PMID 11144624. 
  31. ^ Zimring, Franklin E.; Hawkins, Gordon (1997). Crime Is Not the Problem: Lethal Violence in America. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195131055. OCLC 860399367. 
  32. ^ Annest, Joseph L.; Mercy, James A.; Gibson, Delinda R.; Ryan, George W. (June 14, 1995). "National Estimates of Nonfatal Firearm-Related Injuries: Beyond the Tip of the Iceberg". JAMA (American Medical Association) 273 (22): 1749–54. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03520460031030. PMID 7769767. 
  33. ^ Garbarino, James; Bradshaw, Catherine P.; Vorrasi, Joseph A. (2002). "Children, Youth, and Gun Violence" (PDF). The Future of Children (David and Lucile Packard Foundation) 12 (2). ISSN 1054-8289.  |chapter= ignored (help)

Further reading[edit]

Library resources in your library about gun violence

External links[edit]