Today I’d like to review the laws pertaining to gun ownership in the five countries on Earth with the highest overall murder rates.
5. Venezuela. This is probably the country I invoke the most to show America how not to handle… anything. From scary similarities between the language used by the President of Venezuela and the President of the United States, our economy is just a hop a skip and a jump from the death spiral that is the Venezuelan economy. This cautionary tale from Venezuela does not end with economics however, as America can learn from, and therefore avoid, other policy mistakes that have spelled disaster for the people of Venezuela.
Venezuela’s murder rate was 49 per 100,000 residents in 2009. That’s one in roughly 2,000 people in Venezuela that are murdered each year. My tiny town where I graduated with 74 other students in my class, would host 3 funerals a year for victims of murder, if this was Venezuela. Private ownership of guns was completely banned in Venezuela in 2012, when previously restrictive licensing and firearm registry was allowed to civilians who could prove they needed a gun for a specific reason, in which case they were allowed to own a .22 caliber rifle, or a shotgun. Concealed carry was already illegal. According to estimates in 2013 the Venezuelan murder rate rose to 79 per 100,000 residents. Despite these strict gun laws, 39 of the 49 homicides per 100,000 people in 2009 were carried out with firearms.
4. Jamaica. Jamaica’s overall murder rate in 2010 was 52.1 per 100,000 residents. “In Jamaica, the right to private gun ownership is not guaranteed by law”, though there is a permitting process and gun registry. Like Venezuela, applicants must prove their reason for needing a gun for hunting, personal protection, or sport. When it comes to ammunition, only 50 rounds per year are allowed to be possessed by legal permit holders.
In Jamaica, there are 8.1 guns per 100 people (legal and illegal). In America there are 101 guns per 100 people (legal and illegal). Despite there being 12.5 times as many guns per 100 people in America, the 2010 overall murder rate was 5.27 per 100,000 people, almost one tenth of the Jamaican murder rate.
3. Cote d’Ivoire has an even lower distribution of firearms than Jamaica, with only 2.4 guns per 100 people. But their murder rate per 100,000 residents edges out Jamaica, with 56.9 in 2008. Firearm ownership is carefully restricted and monitored by the government of Cote d’Ivoire, with registries of every gun sale, transfer and purchase. “In a comparison of the rate of private gun ownership in 178 countries, Côte d’Ivoire ranked at No. 124″, America ranked No. 1.
2. El Salvador. With a 2010 murder rate of 66 overall murders per 100,000 people, El Salvador is ranked second for most murders per country worldwide. El Salvador requires background checks for gun permit applicants, and maintains a registry for every gun in civilian hands. El Salvador employed between 2006 and 2008 gun buyback schemes in a fruitless attempt to curb the murder rate; “the total number of firearms destroyed following recent amnesty, collection and seizure programmes is reported to be 28,036”.
There’s approximately 400,000 civilian firearms in El Salvador, both legal and illicit, making their rate per 100 residents 5.8 (remember America’s is 101). By contrast, American civilians are estimated to possess between 270 million, and 310 million firearms. Taking the lower number, that means by subtracting the number of American firearm homicides, at least (since multiple murders could have occurred with the same firearm) 269,988,899 American firearms were not used in a murder last year.
Some sources claim there are actually far more guns in El Salvador than reported. But even if this is the case, it means the number of illegal guns far outpaces the number of legally owned guns, despite their registry and permitting process. Yet again the laws limit the people who follow the rules, while letting criminals run rampant, heavily armed.
1. Honduras. The 2012 overall murder rate in Honduras was 82.1 murders per 100,000 people. Some studies estimate that humans can usually “put names to the faces of around 1500 individuals”. This means that if you personally know 1,500 people in Honduras, on average every year someone you know will be murdered, and every 4 years, 5 people you know personally will be murdered. This is a sad reality, one that Americans, living in the country with the most guns and the most guns per capita on Earth, do not even come close to experiencing.
“In Honduras, a unique identifying mark on each firearm is required by law”, the country maintains a database of firearms sold and purchased, permit holders must reapply every 4 years, and go through a background and mental health check. Despite the strict gun control, and with only 6.2 legal and illegal guns per 100 people, 83.3% of murders are carried out with a firearm.
What all this data clearly suggests is that legally restricting firearm ownership does not mean that guns will not be used in murder, and it does not mean overall murder rates, or even gun murder rates, will be lower. If it were easier for non-criminal law abiding citizens in these countries to acquire a gun, and use it for self defense, we would see these murder rates plummet. This evidence supports what common sense has always told us; the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.