Gun death statistics in other Countries

Eric Harkleroad of The Daily Princetonian:

Mr. Moore and his staff were not immediately available for comment via an email address listed on the film’s website, so it is still unclear to me exactly what the numbers represent. However, what is clear is that they are highly inaccurate and unrepresentative of the true differences in the homicide rates between the listed countries.

This fact can be verified by checking official international crime statistics, which are archived on the website of Interpol, an international police organization, at www.interpol.int. The explicit link to the Interpol reports as well as copies of the calculations I am about to describe (in Excel, html and text formats) are publicly accessible at www.princeton.edu/~eharkler.

For each of countries listed in the preview for Mr. Moore’s film, I looked up both the number of homicides and the population in the year 2000. I then normalized the homicide rate to homicides per 100,000 people. For example, in 2000 there were 2,770 homicides in Germany among a total population of 82,163,475. This yields 2770/ 82,163,475 * 100,000 = 3.37 homicides per 100,000 people in the year 2000. Similar calculations for each of the countries listed allow us to compare the homicide rates in the different countries and to perform a check of Mr. Moore’s numbers.

According to Mr. Moore’s numbers, the homicide rate in the U.S. is 30 times greater than that of Germany, and 285 times greater than that of Japan. However, based on Interpol statistics for 2000, these numbers are actually 1.64 and 5.03, respectively — a difference which is not due to technical or statistical error, but likely to a creative and narrow choice of source data on Mr. Moore’s part. Most likely Mr. Moore’s numbers are not actually fabricated, but rather chosen from a year in which the homicide rate in the U.S. relative to other countries was unusually high and not representative of the average over time. As the Interpol data for 2000 shows, a broader perspective might yield more sober results.

And that is pretty much what David Hardy cam up with when he did the following research on his site:

Germany:

Bowling says 381: 1995 figures put homicides at 1,476, about four times what Bowling claims, and gun homicides at 168, about half what it claims: it’s either far too high or far too low.

Australia:

Bowling says 65. This is very close, albeit picking the year to get the data desired and although it’s misleading when given as an average.

Between 1980-1995, firearm homicides varied from 64-123, although never exactly 65. In 2000, it was 64, which was proudly proclaimed as the lowest number in the country’s history. Is it really honest to be taking a countries lowest number in history as it’s average when making an argument in comparison to another country?

United States:

Bowling says 11,127. FBI figures put it a lot lower. They report gun homicides were 8,719 in 2001, 8,661 in 2000, 8,480 in 1999. (2001 UCR, p. 23). Here’s the table:

* David Hardy found a way to compute precisely 11,127. Ignore the FBI & use Nat’l Center for Health Statistics figures. These are based on doctors’ death certificates rather than police investigation.

Then — to their gun homicide figures, add the figure for legally-justified homicides: self-defense and police use against criminals. Presto, you have exactly Moore’s 11,127. I can see no other way for him to get it.

Since Moore appears to use police figures for the other countries, it’s hardly a valid comparison. More to the point, it’s misleading since it includes self-defense and police: when we talk of a gun homicide problem we hardly have in mind a woman defending against a rapist, or a cop taking out an armed robber.

United States:

Bowling says 11,127. FBI figures put it a lot lower. They report gun homicides were 8,719 in 2001, 8,661 in 2000, 8,480 in 1999. (2001 UCR, p. 23). Here’s the table:

* David Hardy found a way to compute precisely 11,127. Ignore the FBI & use Nat’l Center for Health Statistics figures. These are based on doctors’ death certificates rather than police investigation.

Then — to their gun homicide figures, add the figure for legally-justified homicides: self-defense and police use against criminals. Presto, you have exactly Moore’s 11,127. I can see no other way for him to get it.

Since Moore appears to use police figures for the other countries, it’s hardly a valid comparison. More to the point, it’s misleading since it includes self-defense and police: when we talk of a gun homicide problem we hardly have in mind a woman defending against a rapist, or a cop taking out an armed robber.

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