Bowling for Rio de Janeiro and Johannesburg?

The Washington Post reports today that Brazil is considering a nationwide ban on all firearms and ammunition for everyone except its police and military.

The Oct. 23 referendum, in which all adults must participate (voting is optional for those over 70), will be the first time any country has taken a proposed gun ban to the national ballot. Brazil has the highest number of firearms fatalities in the world, with more than 36,000 people shot dead last year, according to government figures.

Not surprisingly, shooting was the country’s leading cause of death. The article cites an estimate of 17.5 million guns in Brazil. That’s approximately one gun for every ten people! Must be that Brazil is a country of fear.

On a more serious note however, this prompted me to wonder about the causal link between the number of guns per capita and the number of deaths by shooting. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find data for this (and I don’t have time today to spend looking for it). However, I was able to find figures for gun deaths internationally, both absolute and for every 1000 citizens (Some of these numbers seem on the high side and there’s a pretty steep drop off between Zimbabwe and Mexico. I can’t vouch for their accuracy, but assures me that they are from UN data.). Although Brazil seems to have been excluded from the dataset, here are the results.

Top ten ranking of death by firearms per year:

1. South Africa 31,918 (2000)
2. Colombia 21,898 (2000)
3. Thailand 20,032 (2000)
4. United States 8,259 (1999)
5. Mexico 3,589 (2000)
6. Zimbabwe 598 (2000)
7. Germany 384 (2000)
8. Belarus 331 (2000)
9. Czech Republic 213 (2000)
10.Ukraine 173 (2000)

Top ten ranking of death by fire arms per year, per 1000 citizens:

1. South Africa 0.71 per 1000 people
2. Colombia 0.50 per 1000 people
3. Thailand 0.31 per 1000 people
4. Zimbabwe 0.04 per 1000 people
5. Mexico 0.03 per 1000 people
6. Belarus 0.03 per 1000 people
7. Costa Rica 0.03 per 1000 people
8. United States 0.02 per 1000 people
9. Uruguay 0.02 per 1000 people
10. Lithuania 0.02 per 1000 people

One interesting thing that immediately stands out is only three OECD member countries make the top ten in total deaths, although Mexico and Germany drop out when the data is adjusted to deaths per 1000 people.

Another thing I notice is that South Africa tops both lists. This is perhaps not surprising for a country where personal flamethrowers were actually marketed for a time as an anti-carjacking measure. Both the Economist and the New York Times recently reported that although crime rates, including carjacking (sadly, with little thanks to the flamethrower) have declined in recent years, South Africans feel unsafe than ever before. I’d love to like you to the NYT piece, which is great, but the bastards have started that “Times Select” nonsense and while I ain’t paying $3.95 for it, if you’re so inclined please feel free to check it out here.

3 thoughts on “Bowling for Rio de Janeiro and Johannesburg?”

  1. Do these stats make any distinction between military and civilian gun deaths, or is it absolute numbers?

  2. Not sure about that. I didn’t have a ton of time to look for better data or to figure out what’s included in the numbers I used. The underlying data is from the UN, so I suppose if you could find that UN report, you could find out if there is a distinction made.

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