July 27th, 2012
04:33 PM ET

Time to face facts on gun control

By Fareed Zakaria

It has now been just over a week since a lone gunman opened fire on moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado. The airwaves have been dominated by soul searching.

Most of the pundits have concluded that the main cause of this calamity is the dark, strange behavior of the gunman. Talking about anything else, they say, is silly. The New York Times’ usually extremely wise columnist, David Brooks, explains that this is a problem of psychology, not sociology.

At one level, this makes sense, of course, as the proximate cause. But really, it’s questionable analysis. Think about this: are there more lonely people in America compared with other countries? Are there, say, fewer depressed people in Asia and Europe? So why do they all have so much less gun violence than we do?

The United States stands out from the rest of the world not because it has more nutcases – I think we can assume that those people are sprinkled throughout every society equally –but because it has more guns.

Look at the map below. It shows the average number of firearms per 100 people. Most of the world is shaded light green – those are the countries where there are between zero and 10 guns per 100 citizens. In dark brown, you have the countries with more than 70 guns per 100 people. The U.S. is the only country in that category. In fact, the last global Small Arms Survey showed there are 88 guns for every 100 Americans. Yemen is second at 54. Serbia and Iraq are among the other countries in the top 10.

We have 5 percent of the world's population and 50 percent of the guns.

But the sheer number of guns isn’t an isolated statistic. The data shows we compare badly on fatalities, too.  The U.S has three gun homicides per 100,000 people. That’s four times as many as Switzerland, ten times as many as India, 20 times as many as Australia and England.

Whatever you think of gun rights and gun control, the numbers don’t flatter America.

I saw an interesting graph in The Atlantic magazine recently. A spectrum shows the number of gun-related deaths by state. Now if you add one more piece of data – gun control restrictions – you see that the states with at least one firearm law (such as an assault weapons ban or trigger locks) tend to be the states with fewer gun-related deaths.

Conclusion? Well, there are lots of factors involved, but there is at least a correlation between tighter laws and fewer gun-related deaths.

I've shown you data comparing countries, and comparing states. Now consider the U.S. over time. Americans tend to think the U.S. is getting more violent. In a recent Gallup survey, 68 percent said there’s more crime in the U.S. than there was a year ago. Well, here’s what I found surprising: the U.S. is actually getting safer. In the decade since the year 2000, violent crime rates fell by 20 percent; aggravated assault by 22 percent; motor vehicle theft by 42 percent; murder – by all weapons – by 13 percent.

But guns are the exception. Gun homicide rates haven’t improved at all. They were at roughly the same levels in 2009 as they were in 2000. Meanwhile, serious but non-fatal gun injuries caused during assault have actually increased in the last decade by 20 percent, as guns laws have gotten looser and getting automatic weapons has become easier.

We are the world’s most heavily-armed civilian population. One out of every three Americans knows someone who has been shot.

Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, but not to his or her own facts. Saying that this is all a matter of psychology is a recipe for doing nothing. We cannot change the tortured psychology of madmen like James Holmes. What we can do is change our gun laws.

Should U.S. gun laws be tougher? What would you change?


soundoff (2,982 Responses)
  1. jorge washinsen

    I think we should outlaw airplanes also.3000 were killed on 9-11 and no mention of a gun being used.We lost 5000 people in Iraq mostly killed by the same Iraqis we were there to protect.No Al Quaida there until we went there.NO terrorist for that matter except Saddam.

    July 29, 2012 at 11:03 am | Reply
  2. ReligiousGuy

    Texas has lax gun laws (if they do have any). Texas has the highest number of gun ownership. How many gun crimes were prevented by other gun owners in Texas?

    July 29, 2012 at 11:06 am | Reply
  3. jorge washinsen

    It is good that we keep in touch with news organizations like this.You can not learn what plots are being planned for you on Fox or some of the other unmentionables.

    July 29, 2012 at 11:08 am | Reply
  4. Ken G

    I respect Fareed's journalism, especially in the realms of foreign policy. But this article was very disappointing and did not convey the rigor of thought he is usually known for. First if anyone is quoting statistics at least show your sources from where you are gleaming this data. From what I've personally read, countries which have tough gun laws have an immediate dip in crime which rises to almost pre-gun law levels years after their implementation. There are needs for laws that restrict people who have been involuntarily placed in mental hospitals and limit of large capacity of 20+ rounds. As for semi-automatic weapons that type of action is prevalent in too many hunting arms to be restricted.

    July 29, 2012 at 11:08 am | Reply
  5. GunSmith

    "Jean Sartre
    FACT: Semi-automatic guns can be turned into FULL-AUTOMATIC in about 10-miniutes... either by purchasing a $50.00 kit on the Internet or if you know your way around guns, by anyone with a little basic knowledge..."

    Jean honey, your facts wreak of bull****. You could neither provide a link to this "$50 kit" nor describe how you can magically make a rifle fire full auto by tinkering with it if your life depended on it. Trust me on this because I "know my way around guns."

    Stop making up this nonsense to try to make your absurd and dogmatic argument sound relevant.

    July 29, 2012 at 11:08 am | Reply
  6. jorge washinsen

    I think we need to outlaw automatic and semi automatic box cutters also as was used in 9-11.

    July 29, 2012 at 11:09 am | Reply
  7. hammerofastraea

    Wrong. Upbringing and parenting is what matters most. Don't waste time, money and energy on the gun law debate and fight. Invest it in educating responsible parenting skills. Revising guns laws sounds like more of a do-nothing excuse than does addressing the direct problem – screwed up people raised/not raised/misraised by screwed up parents.

    July 29, 2012 at 11:10 am | Reply
  8. papafoote

    Just a "Reminder" – "Laws" can be put "On", or "Laws" can be "Revised" or "Deleted", put, in our Democracy, the "Power", always has the "Key" for the other folks, and me, to "Vote" with!
    -The Old Goat-

    July 29, 2012 at 11:11 am | Reply
  9. Jeff Williams

    IF $#%@&! DIDNT HAVE A GUN HE WOULD HAVE USED A BOMB OR CHEMICAL

    Let's focus on the facts. The above statement is NOT a fact. There is no evidence he would have used a bomb or chemical. On the other hand, we ALL know he used guns and was equipped like paramilitary. This is the reality. Let's start there.

    No civilian should be as equipped as paramilitary. No one. Your right to play SEAL TEAM 6 ends where my right to watch a movie in public, gunfire-free, begins. My right to life trumps your right to play soldier. If it's that important to you to wear body armor and use assault rifles for entertainment, properly exercise your 2nd amendment right by joining the National Guard or the Army or Marines.

    You imagine stopping the all-in-black gunman in the chaos with your concealed gun in the dark theater. You – with your screen-illuminated body dressed in cotton shirt and Dockers slacks – your handgun, and a critically-necessary headshot versus an intent killer in full body armor equipped with a military weapon and practically unlimited ammo. This is irrational.

    July 29, 2012 at 11:11 am | Reply
    • AndyG

      Theres also no evidence that if he couldn't get guns he would have just forgotten about the whole thing. Please stop deluding yourself. People were going to die by his hand one way or another.

      July 29, 2012 at 11:20 am | Reply
      • Jeff Williams

        If you want to make a point, do not make up your facts. That means you, Andy.

        All we really know is *what happened*. A rational person deals with the evidence, not conjecture.

        You, Andy, have no idea what he would have done in any other situation, and you do not know how many people he would have harmed. You talk about deluding yourself, yet it is you who are arguing from imagination.

        July 29, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  10. Jim

    Compared to your beloved Arab nations, where they kill each other in the middle of the street or gun down there dictator after removing him from office, or blow up hotels and buildings for fun. But noo Mr. Fareed you refuse to do anything like that. Try and remove our guns and see how long before your beloved muslims kill you for the fun of it.

    Your an idiot Mr. Fareed.

    July 29, 2012 at 11:12 am | Reply
  11. founders1791

    STOP – The media, and their liberal sycophants in the Democrat Party, who have lost all sense of 'American Values' in their views and respect for our founding, its principles, and common sense.

    REALITY – CHECK YOUR EMOTIONS AT THE DOOR

    Florida population is 19,057,542 people 100%
    Florida Licenses to carry 2,031,106 people 9.38%

    One (1) out of ten (10) people in the state CAN PACK HEAT to protect themselves. (( THINK ABOUT IT ))

    Guess how many "Do Not Retreat" Cases PER YEAR occur?

    -- Twenty-Six (26) -- THAT'S IT - (26)

    0.0000128% of Permit Holders...used their firearms.

    ----------------------
    TIME TO GET A GRIP FOLKS - NOT A GUN LAW ISSUE

    From 2005-2010, 130 Cases, 26 per year avg
    FROM 2000-2004, 93 Cases, 18.6 per year avg

    July 29, 2012 at 11:14 am | Reply
    • David Woods

      Sounds like you just made all the arguments for this to be a gun law issue!!!

      July 29, 2012 at 11:36 am | Reply
  12. M Vaughn

    ‎"Laws that forbid the carrying of arms ... disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes." –Cesare Beccaria circa1768 Philosopher/Author "Of Crimes and Punishments Still true.

    July 29, 2012 at 11:14 am | Reply
  13. hypatia

    Whose 'facts'? Yours? How about a slice of shut up?

    July 29, 2012 at 11:15 am | Reply
  14. MIKE

    nothing like piggybacking you liberal agenda off the deaths of 12 innocent people. Notice that every other media outlet has moved on to other news except CNN but, in the words of the great Rahm Emanuel "never let a good crisis go to waist".

    Also, much like all the other anti gun rants on CNN this one also failed to provide any real solutions.

    July 29, 2012 at 11:15 am | Reply
  15. Descarado

    This massacre was acted out in a sick and lonely mind before any weapon was ever fired.

    The demented, violent psychology of the cyber-gamer generation is as culpable in this slaughter as any dun that was fired.

    July 29, 2012 at 11:15 am | Reply
    • Descarado

      ..gun..

      July 29, 2012 at 11:16 am | Reply
  16. David Woods

    OK, I can support the second amendment, and the NRA beliefs as well as every person who believes he needs to have a gun whatever his or her reason. But understand this! I also have a right to live and work and play in this country without fear of being attacked by a person carrying a gun! In fact, my right to live supersedes your right to carry that gun! Now, the NRA can fight for all the rights of gun holders it wants, but I also expect the NRA to level the playing field by fighting for my right to live in this country without the fear of someone carrying a gun.
    This is coming from some one that has been a victim of gun crime 3 times in his life and I must say that I am tired of it!
    So, my request from the NRA and every gun advocate out there is take into consideration my rights also when you are thinking of your rights.
    One of those times when I became a victim, I was delivering pizza for a living.
    The other 2 times was when someone decided to use my 18 wheeler for target practice on the highway.
    Now, think about this, what if one of those gunmen had successfully killed me while that truck was going down the highway and my death resulted in an accident that happened to kill your entire family and left you alive and crippled for the rest of your life?
    At least you could then spend the rest of your life sleeping with your gun!

    July 29, 2012 at 11:15 am | Reply
    • Chris in PA

      Would fewer legally obtained guns in this country have prevented your 3 attacks? Perhaps, but I doubt it.
      Were the guns used "on" you obtained legally or illegally? I would suspect Illegally.
      Were the guns being used by someone who is legally allowed to own a gun?
      I carry concealed and openly, legally, whenever I can. If an establishment posts a sign or rule prohibiting guns on their property, I respect their wishes. I have years of training in gun ownership, use, and security situations revolving around the use of my sidearm. Most of the people I know who also carry, can say the same. These are law abiding citizens who for one reason or another, decided they felt safer having their gun on them. They are also responsible in their manner and mentality when they carry. THIS is the majority of people who carry. NOT the image you perhaps have in your mind of a loose cannon individual, quick to draw his weapon if insulted. I say we don't limit gun ownership for stable, law abiding citizens. I say we start educating people on gun safety, legality of lethal force, and proper gun etiquette for all US citizens. At the very least, perhaps your fears of me, a law abiding citizen who happens to be wearing my gun under my shirt, would be eleviated if you knew I had some level of official training?

      July 29, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Reply
      • David Woods

        I didn't say to take your rights away from you; I said fight for my rights to not live in fear from too many guns being out there with as much energy as you fight for the right to carry a gun.
        Also, there is something here I cannot understand here.
        To have one or two hand guns in your house for protection, that I understand.
        To have one or two hunting rifles in your house for your personal use should you happen to be a hunter, that I understand.
        Now for my questions!
        What does anyone need with an assault weapon? What does anyone need with a whole bunch of weapons that far exceeds anything anyone needs for home protection or hunting?
        Furthermore, since most businesses do have signs up stating that gun are not permitted on their property where can you go when you leave the house where you can carry your gun?
        That question having been asked, when you get to a location where you cannot take your gun into the owners property, where is that gun located?
        Please do not tell me that it is safely locked up in your car! Cars get stolen all the time and then I have to ask you this..... If your car was stolen and if you felt that your gun was securely locked in the car and the car thief found the gun and proceeded to kill someone with it, would you now tell me that it wasn't fair to press murder charges against you since in my opinion securing a gun in a vehicle is not securing a gun in a responsible manner.
        Here is all that what I am saying, everything that the NRA has wanted all these years is not only not working, but everything seems to be getting worse and worse with each passing year and the NRA and people like you need to step up to the plate and start coming up with some real fast answers before Congress has it's back up against a wall and is forced to become involved with answers that I'm sure you will not want!
        And give this some thought, your gun is secured in your car, a car thief steals your car and just happens to find your gun and then just happens to kill your wife, or child, or your Mother with it? How are you going to feel then?

        July 29, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
  17. jorge washinsen

    We can argue pros and cons of gun control all day but without the threat of guns there would not be a convience store in this country that could survive.Law breaking citizens are not going to give up anything.

    July 29, 2012 at 11:15 am | Reply
  18. Furriner Go Home

    If Fareed doesn't like our freedoms he can leave. The rest of you sheeple slaves who don't like guns can go with him.

    July 29, 2012 at 11:16 am | Reply
  19. NH

    Having spent a lot of time in both Northern Ireland, Iraq and Russia (3 bombings while in Moscow), I can say with utter certainty that there are much more effecive ways to cause carnage than with firearms, even so called assault weapons. Columbine and Aurora, while terrible, pale in comparison to the body count of 9-11 (planes) and Oklahoma City (Nitrogen). And bear in mind, the objective of these two events was to inflict symbolic damage, not just kill people. If the 9-11 hijackers decided to crash into and crowded sports stadium....?

    July 29, 2012 at 11:16 am | Reply
  20. Doug Hoyt

    The USA is a violent nation. The people are armed to the teeth; and you want me to give up my firearms.

    Please, come back to reality. The Second Amendment is there to keep the peace.

    July 29, 2012 at 11:16 am | Reply
    • David Woods

      That being the case, it seems to me that the second amendment is failing!

      July 29, 2012 at 11:26 am | Reply
      • Doug Hoyt

        Dave,

        The Second Amendment is only a framework in which guns and ownership can be regulated in a reasonable fashion. Can you imagine if there were no framework?
        In fact, with all the private gun ownership in this nation, one would expect much more gun crime. Freedom is messy.

        July 29, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  21. jwm

    the 2nd amendment of the bill of rights guarantees the right to arms. yet as a legal gun owner i have to jump through all sorts of hoops to exercise that right. fareed, let's try this for 2 weeks. you have as many restrictions on your 1a rights that i have on my 2a rights and see what you think about it. women were not allowed to vote until less than a hundred years ago, did they accept restrictions on their rights? people of color faced death to exercise their rights until very recently, should i do less over my 2a rights?

    July 29, 2012 at 11:17 am | Reply
  22. voodkokk

    Yea, this coming from the Pro-Abortion, Anti-Death Penalty bunch. What a crock!

    July 29, 2012 at 11:17 am | Reply
  23. James Dawson

    You all are NIT PICKING on the point of calling a semi auto an automatic. When people refer to the 1911 45 ACP, they usually say 45 auto. Even the lowly 25 autos pistols are refer to as 25 auto, 380 auto. They are AUTO LOADING.

    One thing for sure, I bet the Co shooter and the creep caught in MD with a cache of guns, are NRA members. I cut the NRA loose when I found out they will support the Devil just as long as the Devil is against gun control.

    July 29, 2012 at 11:18 am | Reply
    • Upset Voter

      The NRA has always gone overboard and will accept anyone who agrees with them regardless of the person's background. That is why I have never been a member of the NRA even though I do believe in our right to own weapons.

      July 29, 2012 at 11:54 am | Reply
  24. pb

    There are certain facts not included in this article that need to be known if we are trying to remain objective in deciding the value of gun ownership. The author mentioned that violent crime rates have gone down overall, but gun homicides have not. How many of these homicides are justifiable? He didn't specify how many of the homicides were actual crimes, and how many were the result of someone legally defending their own life. Also the author correlates increased ownership of guns to more violence, even though he states that overall crime rates are down. Isn't that a contradiction? I'm all for legitimate and objective discussion, but it sounds like Mr. Zakaria is trying to skew the facts, or at least omit some facts, in order to support his own opinion. If crime overall is down, and gun ownership is up, then isn't that a good thing?

    July 29, 2012 at 11:20 am | Reply
  25. therevolutionistproject

    You got me fired up now too thinking that America is the only one who has crazy things happening to it. A shooter at a school or theater every couple years is nothing compared to what is happening in Syria. Go watch a suicide bomber in Iraq walk to an intersection full of people and detonate. Or go to Afghanistan and talk to any one citizen who is scared crapless, because once we leave they will not have protection. I can think of a number of countries that you cant even compare to the small infractions that have happened here in the U.S. Some of the people posting you can tell have never been out of the country let alone there state or city. There are far worse places to live. Go visit a country where guns have been confiscated and only then post whether you believe the same.

    July 29, 2012 at 11:20 am | Reply
  26. jorge washinsen

    Socialism built the system we are in.They have convinced enough voters that they will take care of them no matter what.Most of the crooks are too sorry to work at any job.Most have a couple or more of illegitimate children and a friend drawing checks to keep them up. We deserve what we have built in the last 50 years..

    July 29, 2012 at 11:20 am | Reply
  27. James Dawson

    So what if the gun was AUTO LOADING INSTEAD OF FULLY AUTOMATIC. You all lknow what he was refering too.

    July 29, 2012 at 11:20 am | Reply
    • I will buy another gun for fareed

      He was not using a full-auto gun. It was semi-auto.

      July 29, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Reply
  28. Rubes

    I so tire of pseudo-intellectualism masking for rational, open minded discussion on subjects that basically are emotionally laden with deep personal bias. A complex subject seems to require more than what can be justifiably explored in a brief personal-bias article, especially when the author presumes they "really" know the facts. I guess we poor smucks just won't get it until the intellectual elite show us through their dictates just what intellectual utopia is all about.

    July 29, 2012 at 11:21 am | Reply
  29. WeDon'tMatter

    Well, according to Zakaria the only purpose of guns is to kill, hope he is wrong because I want to get to the range before I go to work today and I don't want my apparently broken gun(its never killed anybody) to suddenly get fixed. By the way it appears the anti-gun folks are loosing this controversial conversation.

    July 29, 2012 at 11:21 am | Reply
  30. Chris

    People in the US AKA (politicians, demo-craps, and liberal-butt clowns) tend to forget that man has been able to perfect more than anything else over the centuries , and that's killing. Guns do not kill people, people kill people... The family members and some parts of the system failed that day. Do not punish the 99.9% of good American People! I have grew up around guns my whole life, and in the military especially to respect the weapon and the damage it can cause. If you remove weapons from law bided citizens then you will make everyone a victim first. The creeps, thugs, and terrorist will not care about your rights, your family, or your faith in God or Country. They will simply see you as the victim/enemy and will not hesitate to take your life.
    Remember this to those who try to tread on our rights as Americans. We the People Control This Land.
    I will always honor my oath!
    2009 to 2010 Operation Iraqi Freedom Vet!
    //c//

    July 29, 2012 at 11:22 am | Reply
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