Shot Heard Round the World- Perspectives on Gun Violence from Around the World

It is common within US Congress to prose on gun laws- we are currently in the throes of federal legislation of guns in 2013.  As we speak, gun regulation is predominantly handled on a state-by-state basis, in line with the US federalist system.  However, after the Newtown Connecticut shootings, rampant and continued gun violence plaguing the safety of urban areas, and many theft crimes gone awry, the US media and lobbyists on both sides have grabbed onto such instances in favor of- and against- federal gun restriction law.

sandy hook

                I found an interesting perspective recently from the BBC, by a young journalist studying gun control and homicide in Iceland- his findings seem to trump our conventional thinking on the frequency on homicide and gun violence in the US.  Despite gun ownership being common and avid on the tiny northern island, it maintains the lowest homicide rates per annum in the world.  In 2009, Iceland recorded 1 count of homicide- astonishing, compared to the numbers from Brazil (43,909) and US (15,241).  In Iceland, one-third of the entire population are registered gun owners and the country ranks 15th in legal per capita gun ownership.

On the high end of this spectrum, we find Brazil- and in spite of the government’s 2002 strict gun policy restriction laws, which make it extremely difficult and expensive to own a gun permit, it ranks 10th highest in the world in gun-related homicides.  The US is not in this top 25, but the US does rank highest in civilian gun ownership within the population, and the rate of unintentional gun death and maintains the highest rate of gun-related suicides (

top teb

The Top 10 Countries with the Highest Rates of Gun Homicide (according to

  1. South Africa
  2. El Salvador
  3. Swaziland
  4. Belize
  5. Guatemala
  6. Thailand
  7. Columbia
  8. Lesotho
  9. Trinidad & Tobago
  10. Brazil

What is the reason for Iceland’s low rate of gun violence- and crime overall?  Like many Scandinavian and Nordic country representatives with similar low rates of crime, they cite the low levels of socioeconomic inequality within their borders.  BBC columnist Andrew Clark suggests that “tension between economic classes is non-existent, a rare occurrence for any country”.  While undoubtedly, events such as Newtown Conn. stirred talks of federal legislation against gun violence, Clark’s suggestion may probe further questions. Why did the media push and political will only occur after Newtown? Why was this not previously receiving attention with all of the individual homicides and gun-related violence in urban areas, where gun violence is arguably more normalized and prevalent in the lives of communities and families? While many attempts at federal control over guns have been attempted across the world, Andrew Clark suggests that further cross-country research and roots of inequality may have a greater effect at driving down violent crime all together.



To read Andrew Clark’s entire article, just click on the link:


-Bridget Healy


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