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United States: Where Guns Triple The Homicide Number

In 2010, the intentional homicide rate per 100,000 people in the US was four times that of Britain and France, six times the rate in Germany, and twelve times the rate in Japan. Yet in those same European countries, the robbery and assault rates were similar to those in the US. The explanation for this paradox? Guns.

As the authors Phillip Cook and Jens Ludwig point out in their book Gun Violence: The Real Costs, robberies committed with guns are three times as likely to result in death compared to those committed with other weapons. “Guns don’t kill people, they just make it very easy,” argue the authors. Guns allow killing from a distance with little risk to the perpetrators. They allow drive-by shootings which would not be possible with knives. Killings occur in a fraction of a second, incomparably faster than possible with a knife or a club. The horrible Columbine High School massacre of 1999, where two armed teenagers entered a school and shot 36 people, killing 13, would not have been possible without guns.

What removal of guns from circulation accomplishes, therefore, is not necessarily a reduction in the number of violent incidents – those will likely remain unaffected — but a major reduction in the efficiency of the killing process. The entertainer Ozzy Osbourne summed it up succinctly: “If guns don’t kill people, why do we send guns to wars? We should just send people.”

Gun control laws, gun buybacks, and enforcement actions all do save lives. They keep guns out of the hands of potential killers. Consider the telling example of John Lennon and George Harrison. Those two members of the same famous pop group were both attacked by their “fans.” Lennon was in the US at the time and was killed by an American whose weapon of choice was a gun. Harrison, on the other hand, was in London where the “fan” attacked him with a knife. The famous Beatle, together with his wife, were able to apprehend the perpetrator and survive. It may very well be that the difficulty in obtaining a handgun in Britain saved Harrison’s life.


  • Cook Philip J., Ludwig Jens, “Gun Violence : The Real Costs”, Oxford University Press, Cary, NC, USA, 2000

Two Bullets and a Gun

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