Since 1990 the number of gun deaths worldwide has reached 6.5 million. Three quarters of gun deaths occur in just 15 countries.
Latin America is home to some of the world’s most violent countries by murder rate. El Salvador, Venezuela, and Guatemala are the top three countries for deaths caused by guns per population. These Latin American countries are marred by corruption, organized crime, and a dysfunctional criminal justice system that further fuels the problem.
The availability of guns in the United States is another concern for these countries. An estimated 200,000 guns a year, that were first sold in the United States, are smuggled over the southern border and used in violent crimes in Latin America and the Caribbean. In the United States the constitutional right to bear arms has led to looser regulations and easier access to firearms. This contributes to the 30,000 men women and children who were killed with guns each year.
Mass shootings attract their headlines but in fact these make up only 0.2% of gun deaths. 60% of gun related deaths are in fact suicide. America’s suicide rate increased by 25% between 1999 and 2015 – with nearly 45,000 taking their own lives in 2015 alone. Half of these suicides were carried out with guns. Though guns aren’t the most common method of suicide they are the most lethal.
Other wealthy countries have far lower rates of gun violence. In Japan if you want to own a gun you must pass a written exam and a shooting range test, alongside a series of mental health, drug, and criminal record tests – it has virtually eradicated gun crime.
After a mass shooting in 1996, Australia introduced an effective buyback scheme of firearms. In the 20 years following the ban there was an accelerated decline in total gun deaths.
But in America the House of Representatives has not voted on a single measure to prevent gun violence and in some states such as Texas, where students at public colleges can now carry concealed handguns, the law has actually loosened. Easy access to firearms will continue to be the main driver of America’s gun deaths.
El Salvador, Venezuela and Guatemala have the worst gun violence in the world. America’s lax firearm laws are adding to their problems.
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