Yesterday I wrote a column in which I argued that using the gun-ownership rate in the U.S. as the ‘driver’ for gun violence is flawed if we count all guns, rather than only counting handguns which are involved in nearly all gun violence. The esteemed gun-violence researcher, whose book, Private Guns – Public Health, sets a standard for research in the field, sent a response and has given me permission to post it here:
I beg to differ. Three of the key factors which makes the US such an outlier compared to the other high income countries with regard to firearms are that (a) we have the weakest gun laws, (b) we have the most guns per capita, and (c) our guns are disproportionately handguns. By (c) I don’t mean to imply that most of the guns in our gun stock are handguns, though the US handgun/long gun ratio has been growing. Instead I mean that we have a far higher percentage of handguns in our gun stock compared to the other high-income countries. For example, Canada has a sizeable number of long guns, but fairly few handguns. So if we calculate per capita handgun ownership for developed countries, the U.S. becomes even more of an outlier. And we know that most violent crime involves handguns rather than long guns; handguns are much more likely than long guns to be used in violent crime.
We could disaggregate handguns still further into those more (vs less) likely to be used in violent crime in the US, and if we did, I suspect that the US would become even more of an outlier compared to the other high income countries (in terms of the number of the “type of handguns likely to be used in violent crime” divided by the country’s population) –but I don’t have data on how many of the type of “handguns likely to be used in violent crime” are in the gun stocks of the other high-income countries, so I can’t prove my suspicion.