CNN Makes False Claim About Firearm Death Rates 


By John R. Lott, Jr. Contributing Editor to Texas & U.S. Law Shield

Screen-Shot-2016-11-07-at-Monday-November-7-8.10-AMCNN recently made the completely false claim that the US has “one of the world’s highest rates of death by firearms.” Note most countries don’t report their firearm homicide rates, and there are many other problems that make the US’s rate look worse compared to other countries (please see here, that also provides links to data sources).

Admittedly, the CNN claim is based on total firearm deaths, and most of those are suicides in the U.S., but the firearm homicide rates are so massive in other parts of the world that they swamp firearm suicides in the U.S. (If you use murders [not homicides that include justifiable homicides], suicides account for about 70% of firearm deaths in the U.S.) More information on the relationship between gun ownership and homicide rates (both total and by firearms) can be found here.

The Small Arms Survey looks at the number of guns privately owned per capita. The reason that the “private” part is important is that in many parts of the world governments technically own guns even though they are in the possession of private individuals.

For example, in 2007 you had a large percentage of the Swiss male population that had military issued weapons in their homes (all able bodied males between 18 and 42 and possibly up to age 65), but those weren’t counted in this total. Israel is said to have had only 7 guns per 100 people, but while most people have guns in Israel, the guns are technically owned by the government. People can be in possession of a gun for 50 years in Israel. Is it the possession rate or the private ownership rate that is of interest here?

If you look at the gun possession rate rather than the “private” gun ownership rate, both Israel and Switzerland clearly have higher gun possession rates in 2007 than the US.

At the very least, CNN should have labeled these graphs as showing the number of privately owned guns, not guns possessed, per hundred people.

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John Lott, Jr. is a columnist for and the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, a nonprofit he founded in 2013. Lott holds a Ph.D. in economics from UCLA. Lott is a frequent writer of op-eds, and has written various books, his most recent one (as of 2016) being The War on Guns: Arming Yourself Against Gun Control Lies. His past books include More Guns, Less Crime, The Bias Against Guns, and Freedomnomics. Used with permission. Click here to see the original on the Crime Prevention Research Center website.

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