Out of the world’s 251,000 gun deaths every year, there’s a group of six countries that make up more than half of those deaths — and the United States is in it, according to a new study published in JAMA.
The five other countries are Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, and Guatemala, which have differing problems, but generally have much weaker economies and institutions — particularly criminal justice systems — than America. No other developed nation comes close to the death toll these other countries face to gun violence, which, for the purposes of this study, excludes deaths from war, terrorism, executions, and police.
The top six’s gun death tolls for 2016: Brazil was 43,200, the US 37,200, Mexico 15,400, Colombia 13,300, Venezuela 12,800, and Guatemala 5,090. Collectively, these countries made up less than 10 percent of the global population but 50.5 percent of the world’s gun deaths, the study found.
One reason America ranks so high is its large population: A country with more people is, all other things held equal, generally going to have more gun deaths.
To that end, the US’s rate of gun deaths is a bit lower than the other countries on this list; it was at 10.6 per 100,000 people, while Mexico was at 11.8, Brazil 19.4, Colombia 25.9, Guatemala 32.3, and Venezuela 38.7. El Salvador, which was not on the top six list for overall deaths, had the highest gun death rate in the world at 39.2 per 100,000 people. The global rate of gun deaths was 3.4 per 100,000 people.
Globally, most gun deaths were homicides. But in the US, most were suicides.
The US was one of 17 countries (out of 195) in which both the firearm homicide rate and firearm suicide rate were higher than the global median.
America was also the odd country out among wealthier nations when it comes to gun deaths. For comparison, the US’s rate of 10.6 gun deaths per 100,000 people was much higher than Switzerland’s rate of 2.8, Canada’s 2.1, Germany’s 0.9, the United Kingdom’s 0.3, and Japan’s 0.2.
It is expected that as countries become wealthier and build stronger government institutions, they will see fewer gun deaths (since systemic poverty and weak criminal justice systems, for example, can contribute to more violence). While the rate of US gun deaths is lower than that of many less developed countries, America is still an outlier when compared to nations in similar socioeconomic circumstances.
The study’s estimates are not perfect, as some countries do a poor job tracking gun deaths and proxy measures that are used to gauge gun deaths. But the study gives us the best look yet into gun deaths worldwide — and it’s not good for America.
A major reason is the US’s tremendous number of guns and weak gun laws. Time and time again, researchers have linked these factors to America’s high rates of gun violence, making it the most violent developed country in the world when it comes to guns.