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Comparing gun violence in the U.S. and South Africa

Comparing gun violence in the U.S. and South Africa

Just hours after the shocking announcement that Oscar Pistorius, the South African double amputee, Paralympic champion, and Olympic competitor, had been charged with fatally shooting his girlfriend in the head and arm at his house, the press is beginning to place the incident in the context of South Africa’s gun culture — in an echo of the gun control debate currently raging in the United States. So, how does gun violence in the two countries compare?

The United States has the highest rate of private gun ownership in the world (88.8 guns for every 100 people), while South Africa ranks 50th, with a rate of 12.7 guns per 100 people. But gun ownership does not necessarily correlate with gun-related homicide: According to U.N. data, South Africa trumps the United States in that category, with a rate of 17 gun-related deaths per 100,000 people, as compared to the U.S. rate of 3.2. The United States, however, does lead the developed world in the category.

Interestingly, a homicide is more likely to involve a gun in the United States (where more guns are available) than in South Africa. Just over 67 percent of homicides in the United States are committed by firearm, while in South Africa the rate of homicides by gun is 45 percent.

Here’s a list of the most gun violence-plagued countries in the world, according to U.N. data. (Note: Some of these numbers are more recent than others.) For more on this subject, check out FP‘s slide show of the world’s 10 deadliest cities.

1. Honduras: 68.4 gun-related homicides/100,000 people
2. El Salvador: 39.9
3. Jamaica: 39.4
4. Venezuela: 39
5. Guatemala: 34.8
6. Saint Kitts and Nevis: 32.4
7. Trinidad and Tobago: 27.3
8. Colombia: 27.1
9. Belize: 21.8
10. Puerto Rico: 18.3
11. Brazil: 18.1
12. South Africa: 17