Firearm deaths continued to climb in the second pandemic year after a record-breaking 2020, reaching 48,832 in 2021, according to newly released provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And less than 300 days into 2022, there were more than 464 mass shootings, according to Gun Violence Archive. (These are the deadliest mass shootings since the Columbine massacre.)
While the U.S. stands out among developed nations in gun deaths, multiple other countries struggle with gun violence. In Mexico, guns were used in the vast majority of homicides, contributing to 22,118 total gun deaths in 2019. In Brazil, President Bolsonaro loosened gun law, despite the country’s 49,437 gun-related fatalities in the year he was elected to office, 2019. Both Brazil and Mexico grapple with drug cartel gun violence.
To determine the countries with the most gun deaths, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data on overall gun deaths and per capita gun deaths in 204 countries in 2019 from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluations. Countries were ranked on 2019 gun deaths per person. We added overall and per capita gun figures on interpersonal violent firearm deaths, self-inflicted firearm deaths, and unintentional firearm deaths in 2019, also from the IHME. Gun ownership data came from the 2017 Small Arms Survey, a Swiss-based research project. 2021 population figure came from the World Bank. Only countries with more than 1,000 firearm deaths were included on the list.
Among countries with the most gun deaths per capita, the U.S. holds a high-ranking position in several categories. The U.S. ranks No. 2 for the most gun deaths overall and No. 1 in the rate of self-inflicted gun deaths. Many lawmakers attribute the high rate of gun deaths in the U.S. with lax gun laws.
The U.S. also holds the No. 1 ranking for civilian firearm ownership, with 120.5 firearms owned per 100 persons. In fact, according to the Small Arms Survey, the U.S. has 46% of all civilian-owned guns across the globe, despite having less than 5% of the global population. Among the countries on our list, No. 14, Pakistan, has the second highest number of civilian firearm owners per 100 persons. (These are the states with the most gun purchases per person.)
Three of the top five countries with the most gun deaths overall are in South America, one is in North America, and one is in Asia. El Salvador, No. 17, has the highest rate of interpersonal violent firearm deaths, per 100,000 people, followed by No. 6, Venezuela and No. 8, Guatemala. On a per capita basis, however, the countries with the worst gun violence are all in the Western Hemisphere, with the top six countries all in South America.
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