Gun deaths in South Africa vs the world

Data from the United Nations and the Small Arms Survey shows how South Africa’s gun ownership and gun deaths compare to other countries across the world.

Gun violence has again been thrust into the global spotlight following a widely publicised mass shooting in Orlando, Florida in the USA.

The mass shooting has been described as the worst of its kind in US history – and is just the latest in what has sadly become a common recurrence in the world’s leading economy.

Martin Grandjean, a researcher of contemporary history at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland and a data visualization expert, claimed that more Americans have died from guns in the US since 1968, than on the battlefields of all the wars in the country’s history.

From 1966 to 2012, nearly a third of the world’s mass shootings took place in the US, according to a 2016 study that used the FBI definition of ‘mass shooting’.

An despite this infamy around gun deaths in the US, a World Health Organization report in 2015 – using data from 2012 – revealed that South Africa was the second worst country in the world for gun-related deaths.

Read: South Africa is the second worst country in the world for gun deaths

South Africa is a violent country, recording high murder rates on an annual basis. However, gun death statistics are notoriously difficult to pin down due to the non-specific nature of reporting.

The South African Police Service stopped reporting on firearm data in 2000, making many of the local stats dependent on hunting associations and other sources, which are not entirely reliable.

Also because of this, the number of reported guns are typically indicative of legal gun ownership (as illegal firearms can’t easily be tracked), while gun death statistics include both murder and suicide.

Despite these points, many legal firearms still end up in the hands of criminals (the SAPS reported 1,900 police guns going missing between 2014 and 2015 alone), and add fuel to the fire of gun control debates – in the USA and South Africa.

Global gun deaths

Data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime paints a different picture to the WHO data.

The global body tracked homicide rates and gun ownership in 2012, showing which nations in the world lead as the most dangerous for gun crime.

In summary, the data shows that the US has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world, with 88.8 firearms per 100,000 people, followed by Yemen (54.8 per 100,000) and Switzerland (45.7 per 100,000).

The US has the most guns, and also one of the highest death counts attributed to guns (6th, globally, with 9,146 deaths) – but the country known as the most gun-crazy in the world has a lower murder by gun rate than South Africa, the data shows.

According to the UN data, the US has a homicide by firearm rate of 2.97 per 100,000 people – the 28th highest rate in the world.

South Africa ranks 12th, with a rate of 17.03 per 100,000 people.

These findings are vastly different to the WHO dataset, which shows just how difficult it is to determine any solid facts on global gun deaths – but the data aligns with global homicide rates.

The tables below show the countries in the world with the highest rates of gun ownership and gun deaths, according to the UN.

Top 15 countries by gun ownership

# Country Total number of civilian firearms Rate (per 100,000 people)
1 United States 270 000 000 88.8
2 Yemen 11 500 000 54.8
3 Switzerland 3 400 000 45.7
4 Finland 2 400 000 45.3
5 Serbia 3 050 000 37.8
6 Cyprus 275 000 36.4
7 Saudi Arabia 6 000 000 35.0
8 Iraq 9 750 000 34.2
9 Uruguay 1 100 000 31.8
10 Sweden 2 800 000 31.6
11 Norway 1 400 000 31.3
12 France 19 000 000 31.2
13 Canada 9 950 000 30.8
14 Austria 2 500 000 30.4
15 Germany 25 000 000 30.3

Top 15 countries by gun deaths

# Country Number of homicides by firearms Rate (per 100,000 people)
1 Honduras 5 201 68.4
2 El Salvador 2 446 39.9
3 Jamaica 1 080 39.4
4 Venezuela 11 115 39.0
5 Guatemala 5 009 34.8
6 Saint Kitts and Nevis 17 32.4
7 Trinidad and Tobago 365 27.3
8 Colombia 12 539 27.1
9 Belize 68 21.8
10 Puerto Rico 692 18.3
11 Brazil 34 678 18.1
12 South Africa 8 319 17.0
13 Dominican Republic 1 618 16.3
14 Panama 569 16.2
15 Bahamas 52 15.4

More on violence

South Africa among the worst 10 countries for murder

South Africa’s murder hotspots

The truth about farm murders in South Africa

Oscar Pistorius will be charged for murder: Constitutional Court

Must Read

Partner Content

Show comments

Trending Now

Follow Us

Gun deaths in South Africa vs the world