Guess How Many Violent Crimes in the USA Involve a Gun

Harvard health policy expert Dr. David Hemenway routinely uses statistics like "250 people were shot each day in the US" and "Children aged 5–14 ... are more than 13x more likely than children in other high-income populous countries to be murdered with a gun" to support a myth.  That myth is that America is one of the most violent nations on the planet because its citizens possess firearms.  Domestically, this myth survives by focusing on U.S. homicide rates where guns are used 74% (FBI 2019) of the time, and it thrives internationally because the U.S. outranks most all other nations for the same reason.  But is the rationale rational?

Domestically speaking, citing firearm homicides to prove that America is a violent nation fails for two primary reasons: 1) homicides are 1% of U.S. violent crime (FBI 2019) invalidating it as a metric for national violence; and 2) 78% (FBI 2019) of total violent crime is committed without a gun.  This bears repeating: nearly 8 in 10 violent crimes in America don't involve a gun.

Internationally speaking, as one of the few nations that permits citizens to possess firearms, it's unsurprising the U.S. has more firearm deaths.  After all, who would be surprised to learn that Egypt has the highest international ranking for people falling to their deaths from atop a large pyramid?  (Yes, it does happen.)  However, in this debate, the lethality of the weapon is not at issue, but rather its relation to violence.  Moreover, because proposed solutions to gun violence focus on changes to national public policy, national violence is most relevant.

To accurately gauge national violence, aggravated assaults (66% of violent crime) must be incorporated into any metric used.  But the anti-gun crowd isn't drawn to aggravated assaults because guns aren't used 72% of the time.  Yet the practical difference between a murder/homicide and aggravated assault is whether the victim lives.

A legal definition for aggravated assault is "physically attacking another person, without regard for his/her life, leading to serious bodily harm with some form of weapon: hands, feet, knives, guns, etc."  Granting that legal punishment is generally a function of whether the victim lives, "disregard for human life," as a measure of violence, is the same.  That's why it's unlikely you'd be relieved to discover that the criminal stalking you in a dark alley will only maim and not kill you.  Hence, when gauging violence in a neighborhood, city, state, nation, etc., murder and aggravated assault must be combined.  Summing 2019 FBI aggravated assaults and homicides, guns go from use in 74% of homicides to "no gun used" in 77% of aggravated assaults and homicides combined — literally flipping the anti-gun position on its head.  By the way, this assessment isn't novel; it's merely more consistent with the FBI's definition for violent crime: homicides + aggravated assaults + rape + robbery.

Some assert that the principal reason there are 50x more aggravated assaults than homicides in the U.S. today is not because criminals are less violent, but because improved emergency response times and medical technology keep more victims alive.  If so, the reverse is also true: if emergency response times and medical technology had not improved, homicides by other means would likely rival gun homicides today.  Thus, another reason anti-gun activists focus almost exclusively on homicides and not, e.g., accidental gun deaths affecting 0.0002% of Americans, is because it silos the lethality of guns on a weapon-by-weapon basis.  But who's debating the obvious?  What's being debated is whether guns increase violence, and the truth is, guns aren't used often enough to make a difference.  At 0.8% of all violent crime, gun homicides are not, and never can be, an accurate (or honest) measure for national violence.  Even summing all gun-related violent crime, 0.09% of the American population, or 852 in 1M, are affected.  How does any of this scream "national crisis"?

Internationally, the "America's a violent nation" myth is advanced by sites like, which rank St. Louis, MO the 14th most murderous city in the world — worse than Culiacán (city), Sinaloa (state) in Mexico.  An October 2018 article offers perspective: "Sinaloa is notorious for its gang presence[.] ... [Its] illicit-dependent economy extends as far back as the 19th century when, the Pacific port cities would import ... [opium] from China.  The Sinaloa cartel is said to be the most dangerous and powerful in the world[.]"

Others like report that the U.S.'s crime index exceeds China's, Pakistan's, and Sudan's.  What's curious about this ranking is its source: — cited by the Who's Who of media: the BBC, the N.Y. Times, Forbes, The Economist, The Washington Post, Fox News, etc.  Its founder is a Serbian mathematician and former Google software engineer.  Difficulties with its rankings are 1) they're derived from qualitative/subjective citizen surveys, not quantitative/objective crime data; 2) there's no indication that surveys are proportionate to national population; and 3) no adjustment is mentioned for differences in societal norms and/or citizen perception complicating, if not invalidating, global comparisons.  For example, a citizen in a P.A. (Palestinian Authority) region of Israel may consider firing an assault rifle into the air a form of celebration whereas a person in Silicon Valley would consider it worthy of a 9-1-1 call.

Finally, ranks America the 14th most homicidal nation, a tad better than Venezuela and China but worse than Uganda.  What's remarkable about this ranking is that the infamous dictator Idi Amin killed 500K in Uganda, and the beat goes on in a May 2021 article, which reports, "Ugandan security forces fired live ammunition indiscriminately ... killing and injuring ordinary citizens including women and children."

The difficulty with the above international rankings is that foreign governments 1) define crimes differently, invalidating un-adjusted comparisons, and 2) typically aren't eager to admit corruption, which prevents accurate crime reporting and discourages citizens from reporting crime in the first place.  After all, why report crime to corrupt police and risk retaliation from the perpetrator?  So, while it's said "crime doesn't pay," because 69% of Americans trust police, more crime is reported, and more reported crime likely contributes to a lower comparative rank internationally than the U.S. deserves.

By the way, when total crimes per 1K, as opposed to homicides alone, is considered as a measure of national violence, ranks Iceland, Sweden, the U.K., New Zealand, Finland, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Austria, France, S. Africa, and Switzerland worse than the U.S.  Ask yourself this: if America is less violent with guns than most of the civilized world without guns, then what are we debating?

If you know a student, make him aware that indiscriminate Googling for school reports, college essays, etc. often leads to false conclusions — and not just regarding crime and guns.

Our deep dive into the numbers continues to expose the anti-gun crowd's lack of evidence sufficient to warrant erosion of the 2nd Amendment.

Image via Pxhere.

If you experience technical problems, please write to