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Gun violence may be broadly defined as a category of violence and crime committed with the use of a firearm; it may[1] or may not[2][3] include actions ruled as self-defense, actions for law enforcement, or the safe lawful use of firearms for sport, hunting, and target practice. Gun violence encompasses intentional crime characterized as homicide (although not all homicide is automatically a crime) and assault with a deadly weapon, as well as unintentional injury and death resulting from the misuse of firearms, sometimes by children and adolescents.[4] Gun violence statistics also may include self-inflicted gunshot wounds (both suicide, attempted suicide and suicide/homicide combinations sometimes seen within families).[5] Not included in this subject are statistics regarding military or para-military activities, the information applies to the actions of civilians.

The phrase "gun crime" is consistently used by both gun-control and gun-rights policy advocates, with differing emphases: the former group advocates reducing gun violence by enacting and enforcing regulations on guns, gun owners, and the gun industry, while the latter group advocates education on how to be a responsible gun owner.[6][7]

Levels of gun violence vary greatly across the world, with very high rates in Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, South Africa, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Jamaica, as well as high levels in Russia, The Philippines, Thailand, and some other underdeveloped countries. Levels of gun violence are very low in Singapore and Japan, and are low in New Zealand, the United Kingdom and many other countries.[8] The United States has the highest rate of gun related injuries (not deaths per capita) among developed countries, though it also has the highest rate of gun ownership and the highest rate of officers.[9]


Some research shows an association between household firearm ownership and gun suicide rates.[10][11] For example, it was found that individuals in a firearm owning home are close to five times more likely to commit suicide than those individuals who do not own firearms.[12] However, other research found a statistical association among a group of fourteen developed nations but that statistical association was lost when additional countries were included.[13] During the 1980s and early 1990s, there was a strong upward trend in adolescent suicides with a gun,[14] as well as a sharp overall increase in suicides among those age 75 and over.[15] In the United States, where suicides outnumber homicides 2:1,[16] firearms remain the most common method of suicide, accounting for 52.1% of all suicides committed during 2005.[17]

Research also indicates no association vis-à-vis safe-storage laws of guns that are owned, and gun suicide rates, and studies that attempt to link gun ownership to likely victimology often fail to account for the presence of guns owned by other people leading to a conclusion that safe-storage laws do not appear to affect gun suicide rates or juvenile accidental gun death.[18][19]


Homicide is defined as the intentional and illegal death caused by one individual on another and in this case with a firearm. In a study by the United Nations released in 2009, it was found that worldwide firearms were used in an average of 60% of all homicides.[20] In 2010 USA homicides, guns are the weapon of choice, especially for multiple homicides.[21]

Robbery and assaultEdit

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime defines robbery as the theft of property by force or threat of force. Assault is defined as a physical attack against the body of another person resulting in serious bodily injury. In the case of gun violence, the definitions become more specific and include only robbery and assault committed with the use of a firearm.[22] Firearms are used in this threatening capacity four to six times more than firearms used as a means of protection in fighting crime.[23]

In terms of occurrence, developed countries have similar rates of assaults and robberies with firearms, which is a different trend than homicides by firearms.[24][25]

Costs of violence committed with gunsEdit

Violence committed with guns leads to significant monetary costs. Phillip J. Cook estimated that such violence costs the USA $100 billion annually.[24] Emergency medical care is a major contributor to the monetary costs of such violence. It was determined in a study that for every firearm death in the USA for one year from 1 June 1992, an average of three firearm-related injuries were treated in hospital emergency departments.[26]

Psychological costs of violence committed with guns are also clearly documented. James Garbarino found that individuals who experience violence are prone to mental and other health problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and sleep deprivation. These problems increase for those who experience violence as children.[27]

See alsoEdit


  1. Carter, Gregg Lee (2002). Guns in American society: an encyclopedia of history, politics, culture, and the law. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO. pp. 262. ISBN 1-57607-268-1. 
  2. Theodore, Larissa (2008-03-29). "GUNS: A RIGHT OR A SOCIETAL ILL?". Beaver County Times and Allegheny Times. "Gun violence by definition is people breaking the law, and drugs are a huge part of it in inner cities...It's not the gun that is causing them to commit the act." 
  3. Courtesy link to copy of Michigan Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence: Statistics
  4. Encyclopedia of Public Health: Gun Control[dead link]
  5. Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence: Kids and Gun Violence
  6. "About us," Brady Center to Prevent Violence, undated
  7. "Targeting Criminals, not Gun Owners," NRA-ILA; 8/17/06
  8. "2011 Global Study on Homicide". United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Retrieved 2012-12-18. 
  9. Cook, Philip J., Gun Violence: The Real Cost, Page 29. Oxford University Press, 2002
  10. Committee on Law and Justice (2004). "Executive Summary". Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review. National Academy of Science. ISBN 0-309-09124-1. 
  11. Kellermann, A.L., F.P. Rivara, G. Somes, et al. (1992). "Suicide in the home in relation to gun ownership". pp. pp. 467–472. Digital object identifier:10.1056/NEJM199208133270705. PMID 1308093. 
  12. Kellermann, AL, Rivara FP, et al. "Suicide in the Home in Relation to Gun Ownership." NEJM 327:7 (1992):467-472.
  13. Miller, Matthew and Hemenway, David (2001). Firearm Prevalence and the Risk of Suicide: A Review. Harvard Health Policy Review. p. 2. "One study found a statistically significant relationship between gun ownership levels and suicide rate across 14 developed nations (e.g. where survey data on gun ownership levels were available), but the association lost its statistical significance when additional countries were included." 
  14. Cook, Philip J., Jens Ludwig (2000). "Chapter 2". Gun Violence: The Real Costs. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-513793-0. 
  15. Ikeda, Robin M., Rachel Gorwitz, Stephen P. James, Kenneth E. Powell, James A. Mercy (1997). Fatal Firearm Injuries in the United States, 1962-1994: Violence Surveillance Summary Series, No. 3. National Center for Injury and Prevention Control. 
  16. "Twenty Leading Causes of Death Among Persons Ages 10 Years and Older, United States". ”National Suicide Statistics at a Glance”. Centers for Disease Control. 2009. Retrieved 2013-02-17. 
  17. "Suicide in the U.S.A". American Association of Suicidology. 
  18. Kleck, Gary (2004). "Measures of Gun Ownership Levels of Macro-Level Crime and Violence Research". pp. pp. 3–36 National Criminal Justice Reference Service 203876. Digital object identifier:10.1177/0022427803256229. "Studies that attempt to link the gun ownership of individuals to their experiences as victims (e.g., Kellermann, et al. 1993) do not effectively determine how an individual's risk of victimization is affected by gun ownership by other people, especially those not living in the gun owner's own household." 
  19. Lott, John, John E. Whitley (2001). "Safe-Storage Gun Laws: Accidental Deaths, Suicides, and Crime". pp. pp. 659–689. Digital object identifier:10.1086/338346. "It is frequently assumed that safe-storage laws reduce accidental gun deaths and total suicides. We find no support that safe-storage laws reduce either juvenile accidental gun deaths or suicides." 
  20. United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime. "Global Burden of Armed Violence". 
  21. Federal Bureau of Investigation, "Guns are the weapon of choice", Associated Press, 2011.
  22. "United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Crime Data". 
  23. Hemenway, D; David Hemenway, Deborah Azrael (2000). "The Relative Frequency of Offensive and Defensive Gun Uses: Results from a National Survey". pp. 257–272. PMID 11200101. 
  24. 24.0 24.1 Cook, Philip J. (2000). Gun Violence: The Real Costs. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-513793-0. 
  25. Crime Is Not the Problem: Lethal Violence in America. Oxford University Press. 1997. ISBN 0-19-513105-3. 
  26. Annest JL, Mercy JA, et al. "National Estimates of Nonfatal Firearm-Related Injuries: Beyond the Tip of the Iceberg." JAMA 273:22 (1995):1749-1754.
  27. Garbarino, James. "Children, Youth, and Gun Violence: Analysis and Recommendations". Princeton-Brookings. 

Further readingEdit

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