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 (2,985 Responses)
  1. James Madison

    A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

    July 29, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Reply
  2. Dolph T

    The only solution is to repeal the Second Amendment. Until that happy day, the best we can hope for is that the High Political Court will rule that states and the federal government have the authority to treat assault rifles and other automatic weapons more like nuclear bombs than flintlock pistols. The Second Amendment, while very broad in its wording, was adopted in order to implement a no-standing-army policy akin to that of Switzerland's. That ship sailed long ago when we created a standing army of massive size. We no longer need the concept of a citizen warrior to defend our nation from invaders.

    July 29, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Reply
    • Betterthanyouall

      AH so you are for the loss of Thousands of American jobs ? since no guns = no need for gun related jobs ...how about this I trade you my right to own a gun if you trade your right to breath ... no ? I didn't think so and if you weren't another idiotic sheep that believe guns are "Evil" give up your freedoms since you ahte others having them and move on out ...we will be better off and even save a lil money since we dont' have to pay yoru welfare check anymore

      July 29, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Reply
    • Gun Toter

      Ok, let's say that guns are banned. I'm walking down the street and someone pulls a knife on me with the intent of killing me (or worse, one of my family members). What should I do? Try to out run them? (Which I can't) Pull out a knife myself and hope I'm better with it than him? Beg him not to hurt me? If you're ever in a situation like that and a gun toter draws his weapon to defend you, feel free to tell him that you're against private gun ownership and not to use his weapon in your defense. If it's me, I'll holster my weapon and walk away.

      July 29, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Reply
  3. bigjohn

    reason why?? Look at china!! They all walk around with numbchucks!! i mean come on. thats why im 37 and i dont have a gun.

    July 29, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Reply
  4. Ben

    Truthsayer, you are obviously the idiot. How in the world will legalizing drugs get this country back on track? More importantly, health care for all is the last thing we need to be worrying about in this crap economy.

    July 29, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Reply
  5. Scott

    Agreed we have a lot of guns out there but we are also one of the few countries that don't lock down some of these mentally unstable people because it infringes on there rights. So when are we going to take some of these people off the streets in the name of public safety? Nobody wants to address that issue because it will seem so harsh, I say too bad.

    July 29, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Reply
  6. gstlab3

    It is about the criminal act and the dangerous drugs they give to mentally ill people without mandating some form of hospitalization for a period of adjustment to these strong mind altering drugs.

    Criminals will do what they do with or without various forms of gun control.

    These people who do not understand why the second amendment exists personally make me want to go crazy and because of their huge amount of ignorance willfull or otherwise it has become a political football and nobody talks about the real reasons for it.

    If the government and criminals are the only ones who have guns where does that leave the law abiding citizen??

    caught in the middle of bad situation that's where.

    Do we have the right to throw off an over bearing corrupt government or not?
    That is the question you ought to be asking on CNN every day.

    I think most American are so busy and dumbed down they do not realize that they are in fact mere slaves to a huge corrupt system that uses the police and the bogus nature of the courts to force upon the people laws and taxes that keep us in a state of fear of losing everything we have to the tax man and bill collectors.

    Sic Sempter Tyranous!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 29, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Reply
  7. Hudi124

    This article is very deceptive. As a whole, American crime is much much higher than European crime, even if you remove gun-related homicides the rate is far higher. So clearly America's issue is a CRIME issue, not a GUN issue. As other commenters have noted, there is very little evidence that higher gun-ownership leads to higher rates of gun crime or vice versa. The reason for this is simple: the people who commit these crimes are almost always not legal gun owners. I know, the aurora killer was a legal gun owner, but one isolated incident does not make up a trend. The VAST majority of gun crime is commited with illegal, imported guns that would not be affected by regulation or registration either way.

    July 29, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Reply
  8. Jeff

    The old saying "locks are to keep the honest people out..." might apply here.

    If the law against murder doesn't prevent the bad guys from killing, how are gun laws going to accomplish the same thing.

    Guns don't kill, bad people kill. Laws don't matter to them, they will find a way around the law.

    If you take the legal guns away from law abiding citizens, there will still be just as many guns in the hands of criminals.

    Enforce the laws we have, you'd be suprised at the results.

    July 29, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Reply
  9. Andrew

    Firstly, anyone can cite studies that work to any viewpoint I dont doubt Criminals want everyone to turn in their weapons. Anyone that thinks otherwise needs to go hang out in the hood in New Orleans or Detroit with their children and try not to become a statistic. The criminals and psychos certainly will certainly not turn in their weapons. If you want a tennis raquet when your families life is on the line good luck.

    July 29, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Reply
  10. BJanny

    Tell me, you American, how you settle your international problems over the decades? What do you have on your "table"?
    You can take a look at today's Romney's talk in Israel!
    I think beside your loos law over guns, also there is something wrong with your social education and/or culture

    July 29, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Reply
  11. WillyWalnuts

    If I decide that I need a station wagon to haul my family around, who are you to tell me that I can't have a station wagon? That's gun control in a nutshell.

    July 29, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Reply
    • Drew

      If your station wagon had sharpened blades on the front and no brakes ... that is gun control.

      July 29, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Reply
  12. Sal Voce

    So, Fareed Zakaria, how about VIOLENCE IN THE MOVIES and TV???? Did you have to just conveniently in your liberal mind forget the psychological impact of murder, violence and mayhem in the movies???

    Did you happen to forget that this guy thought he was THE JOKER?

    July 29, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Reply
  13. Republican without a gun.

    Only weak AMERICANS need a gun to protect themselves.

    July 29, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Reply
    • Truth Sayer

      Agreed. Most of these guys that "NEED" a gun are weak...

      July 29, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Reply
    • Ben

      Who says people buy guns to protect themselves? I own two guns and hope I never need to use them to protect myself...

      July 29, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Reply
      • Ret

        Read the posts from the ones on the gun sides before posting, that may help.

        July 29, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • mkuske

      You are cordially invited to go camping on my land in Terrell County Texas. I'll pick up your carcass if I haven't heard from you in a week.

      July 29, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Reply
  14. john

    There are many many ways for a psycho like the Co. gunman to kill a large group of people. He chose to use guns. If I recall correctly the joker character he was imitating chose other methods. If this psycho didn't have access to guns I am guessing he would have still done something terrible just with different tools. Lets not forget that no guns were used on 911. A fast driving vehicle into a crowd or a large gasoline fire set in a crowded place like a theater would kill as many if not more people. Shall we outlaw gasoline and matches? Terrible people will do terrible things. THERE IS NO WAY TO STOP THAT. More gun control will achieve some things such a a less empowered population and extremely expensive "war on guns" that of course would fail just like the "war on drugs". Lets also not forget that the worst atrocities in history, in which untold millions have perished, have been committed by governments dictators etc. against unarmed masses. The 2nd amendment is NOT about hunting IT IS about putting power in the hands of citizens.

    July 29, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Reply
    • Truth Sayer

      The 2nd amendment is outdated bro. If our fore fathers knew of the foolishness it would have created they would have NEVER created it.

      July 29, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Reply
      • sevenseas

        Pretty impressive, being able to look back in time and read the minds of the founding fathers.

        July 29, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  15. sbeth

    Fareed, we have guns in America. Dolph, gun owners are the alternate no standing army.

    July 29, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Reply
  16. Average_Casey

    The reason this incident happened was due to control. No one else had weapons in the theater because they were banned. Don't give causation from statistics when you don't have it, it just demonstrates that you are unethical or ignorant.

    July 29, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Reply
    • Truth Sayer

      If he didnt have a weapon would it have happened? I just had to ask...

      July 29, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Reply
      • Redleg50

        He could have used a more deadly method in the theater. There are plenty of ways that this could have been much worse. Thank God it wasn't.

        July 29, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
      • sevenseas

        If he had not had a gun, he would probably used some of the home made grenades and explosives he had. Since you want to play "what if"

        July 29, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • elitephpcoder

      Exactly, if there were people in the theater with conceal to carry, guns and were trained to use them they definitely would of given the shooter cause to run the other direction or at the very least he wouldn't be shooting at unarmed people because bullets would be flying back at him. I can tell you personally, I have decided to get a gun and learn how to use it. I will take some training classes so that if I ever need to shoot at something I will hit my target. I will be packing at any major social event and should someone try to shoot the place up, ill defend my family and fellow citizens.

      July 29, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Reply
  17. RightNYer

    If you exclude gun homicides committed by blacks and mestizo Hispanics, our gun crime rate isn't that much higher than the rest of the developed world's. We don't have a gun problem. We have a race problem.

    July 29, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Reply
  18. rdbeard

    If we were talking about whether to allow foie gras to be served in a restaurant, we have politicians all over it passing laws. But something that is so obvious that a blind man could see the facts, our politicians will do absolutely nothing. Gun ownership, yes. But the way things are now, I would feel more comfortable driving a tank. Unfortunately, many Americans prefer the old days where almost everyone strapped a gun to their hip. Any disagreement, you blow the other persons brains out. Bring back Wyatt Earp, John Wesley Hardin is their mantra. Who cares if you are right or wrong. As long as you can outdraw your opponent, you win. Somehow, I think there are better ways to live than this.

    July 29, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Reply
  19. Mikey

    One day, our government is going to go too far, and those people in Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Texas, and Montana that we call "gun nuts" are going to be the ones that save our bacon.

    July 29, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Reply
    • SuperDave

      You are what is scary in this country. Do you actually believe what you say, or is this a joke??!!

      July 29, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Reply
  20. Notaposter

    Anyone writing for CNN and making such outlandish remarks should lose their job. Seriously.

    July 29, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Reply
  21. Drew

    I like the fact that I can protect my family with a firearm. But do you think I need rifle or handgun with a 20-100 round clip to do it? Nope - but I may be facing one from a nutcase when I go out into public, thank you NRA and gun lobby.

    July 29, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Reply
  22. tmost

    Fareed , Way to spin the truth the way you see it. Do the Swiss people have a higher crime rate as most people there have weapons. The reason these cowards don't take on a police station is they know they wouldn't fair too well, Nor too long. If he thought there would be armed patrons at the theater, He might of either not shot up the place or found a soft target. These crazy nut jobs always look for soft targets-There's a fact for you. There all a lot of Europe massacres where there were tough gun laws, Oh that right-They didn't obey the laws, Another missed FACT. And my own conclusion is that your an idiot. You just proved that fact.

    July 29, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Reply
  23. SuperDave

    This article is spot on. Of course, hunting vested Billy Bob is going to be furious. But let's step back and look at the amendment. "A well regulated miltia" was because at the time of invasion we had no standing army. So what was asked was common folk take up arms against invaders. Now we have an army. And the framers did not intend that Billy Bob go waving his gun in public and shooting citizens. No politician has the cajoles to even say "we don't need the amendment any longer, it's outdated and impractical..." because Billy Bob unfortunately votes. There is a useful purpose for knives, there is only one purpose for a gun: and that is to KILL!

    July 29, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Reply
    • tmost

      That's right Dave, Kill to protect you and your family from the Bad guys- Wake up....

      July 29, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Reply
    • Joe D

      There are a lot of well educated people who choose to own firearms and have CCW permits. Calling all gun owners stereotypical names does not do anyone any good. BTW, gun owners vote because they are citizens, and their votes are not a problem unless you get on a high horse and see yourself as better than other voters and more able to make decisions for them than they are to make decisions for themselves.

      Abraham Lincoln once said that God must truly love common people – look how many of them he made. Gun owners and concealed carry permit holders come from all walks of life and all levels of education. I know a doctor who keeps a loaded handgun on hand all the time and I know store clerks who do the same. it's not about social status, it is about exercising one's rights in a sane and serious manner. The vast majority of firearms owners do exactly that, and as such they are no problem to anyone.

      July 30, 2012 at 12:47 am | Reply
  24. gone

    Lets get rid of foollish HATE not guns.
    Guns are cool when used properly like
    HUNTING for you food.

    July 29, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Reply
  25. stat102

    Fareed, Fareed, Fareed - whatever are we going to do with you?

    It would seem that you've taken some writing courses; but have you never heard of statistics, inference, correlation - or truth in journalism?

    It's bad enough that we face so many issues, but you really should be ashamed of yourself (if that's even possible). You couldn't even get the FBI to agree with this gibberish.

    By the way, Fareed - I understand that cable car systems that have banned guns have been shown to reduce loading accidents in mountaintop cafes.

    July 29, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Reply
    • Drew

      He did provide stats. Provide your own if you have better.

      July 29, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Reply
      • Ben

        There are 3 deaths related to violent gun crime per 100,000 Americans. Because of this, we must ban guns.

        There are 12 deaths related to automotive accidents on public roads per 100,000 Americans. WE MUST DEFINITELY BAN CARS!!!

        This article/argument is a joke.

        July 29, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
      • Drew

        This article isn't an argument to ban guns, it's an argument to ban guns the like of which can do damage of a military level. You need a course in reading comprehension.

        July 29, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • SuperDave

      So you say data is incorrect? People like you, who run off of emotion and this misguided notion that government is after you, is what makes this country scary.

      July 29, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Reply
  26. RJA

    An Arabic Muslim on CNN named Fareed says we need less guns. You don't say?

    July 29, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Reply
  27. Mike

    Let's not hide other facts to promote gun control. Russia has some of the strictest gun control laws in the world, yet it's murder rate is twice as high as the US.

    July 29, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Reply
  28. Patrick Morgan

    Fareed would impress me SO MUCH if he actually went out on the streets and buy a fully automatic weapon in a place like say...California, New York, Chicago, etc. Moreover, I would be impressed if he actually went on camera and converted a semiautomatic weapon to fully automatic weapon, like...an investigative reporter should. Please? I think it would be awesome and Americans can really see how easy it is.
    Mr. Zakaria, the truth of the matter is that you're a Muslim gentleman of Muslim descent, actively practicing Taqiyya, deceiving the American public into believing you're a mainstreamer, when in reality, people like you are about destabilizing this nation.

    Go ahead, show me wrong, Fareed.

    July 29, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Reply
  29. Sam

    I would comment if I gave a sh-t about your opinion Fareed, Arab stooge.

    July 29, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Reply
    • Drew

      LOl, you just did, human trash.

      July 29, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Reply
  30. James

    All gun control does is prevent law abiding citizens from purchasing a fire arm. Gun control is accomplished in the homes through education. CNN is a puppet for the Liberals...and Fox is a puppet for the Republicans.

    July 29, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Reply
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