The relation between gun ownership and gun violence is not a simple one, and is very political charged. But please set politics aside, put on your data scientist hat, and look at the data. What do you think is the connection? Please vote
After the latest mass shooting in Newtown, CT, the question of gun violence in the US again came to the top of the news. Clearly gun ownership is not the only cause of violence (one camp in this debate argues "guns don't kill people, people kill people") but gun ownership is an important cause - since there is no gun violence without guns.
A recent KDnuggets poll asked:
What is the connection between gun deaths and gun ownership?
Globally, most KDnuggets readers believe that there is weak positive connection between gun ownership and gun deaths - more guns/capita lead to more deaths. Outside the US most KDnuggets readers believe that the connection is strong. There is, however a vocal minority of sceptics, mostly concentrated in the US, where about 8% believe in the negative connection - more guns lead to less deaths.
Here is a summary of the poll results by region:
For full results and discussion see
The debate on the gun violence and gun ownership connection has a clear Democrat/Republican divide - see
recent analysis by Nate Silver.
However, regardless of your political opinions, please put on your analytics professional hat,
look at the
graphs and data below
and reach your own conclusions - what is the connection ?
A few relevant data points and articles
Here is a plot of Gun deaths vs Gun ownership for all countries.
The size of the circle represents the GDP per capita.
Circle color corresponds to percent of suicides, scaled red (100%) to green (1%).
United States is #12 in gun-related death rate, with 9.2 deaths per 100,000 people, behind El Salvador, Jamaica, Honduras, Guatemala, Swaziland, Colombia, Brazil, Panama, Mexico, Philippines, South Africa, but significantly ahead of other economically advanced countries.
We also note that the small green circles for countries like El Salvador, Jamaica, Honduras, Guatemala indicate that most of the gun deaths in high-violence poor countries are homicides. Red color for US, Switzerland, Serbia indicates that most of the gun deaths in rich countries are suicides.
Here is the same data, but limited to countries with GDP over $20,000.
Since in most advanced countries most of the gun deaths are due to suicides (for example:
USA 64%, Switzerland 88%, Canada 78%),
here is a chart which is limited only to gun homicides in countries with GDP over $20,000.
USA clearly stands out on both axes.
Finally, we can look at gun homicides vs guns ownership for countries with GDP over $20,000, but excluding USA.
the data I used for these charts, which was derived from
Mark Reid data and Wikipedia.
When number of suicidies was not available, it was estimated as average of similar countries. For example for El Salvador, Jamaica, Honduras, Guatemala, Swaziland Wikipedia only gives the total number of deaths. I estimated the number of suicides per 100,000 people as an average of these numbers for Colombia, Brazil, Mexico - which turns out to be 0.75, and adjusted the number of homicides by subtracting the # of suicides from the total number of gun deaths.