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 (4,938 Responses)
  1. palintwit

    There was a big gun & knife show in my area this weekend. Every redneck, evangelical, teabagger and birther in the lower half of the state was there. Confederate flags flying everywhere. After the show, they probably all went home to their trailers to drink Everclear and boink their cousins.

    July 30, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • shut_up

      were the blacknecks there too or were they with the balck panty party mourning trayvon, terdhead

      July 30, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Rick

      Wow, you are an idiot. You probably don't even know where the term redneck came from. It was a group of men who broke the coal companies from enslaving the miners by paying them with cash only good at their store. Very much like a "union", I just hope they're boinking your cousin too.

      July 30, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  2. shut_up

    time to face facts on muslim control zakkkkkkkkkkkkkk

    July 30, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  3. O.T.

    I don't recall electing Fareed Zakaria to any office. Maybe in his ideal statist world Ivy Leaguers like himself can tell American citizens what to do. But not in reality.

    July 30, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  4. jim

    4th article today on gun control. Propaganda machine must be working overtime.

    July 30, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  5. DC

    Mr. Zakaria,

    Time for you also to face facts. If you look a the intentional homicide rates for countries and regions on wikipedia at the link below, you will probably note that your cherry-picked statistics are not quite as stark as you would have us believe.

    US is 35th on the list and has a declining murder rate despite the fact that firearms are more freely available than ever.

    The contrast with other countries isn't as stark either. When people don't find guns to murder, they do so with knives, machetes, blunt instruments or simply with their own hands.

    Please do a little more research before forming your opinions, rather than the other way round.

    July 30, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • Darkseider

      Stop stating facts! CNN is against factual reporting and actual news. Not to mention it makes liberals mad when you show them the reality of things versus their convoluted belief of things. Next time stick to fabricated and sensationalized fluff and your opinion may be taken seriously.

      July 30, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  6. brussell

    Fareed is a government schill!!!

    July 30, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  7. william jacobson

    As we require one to pass a test to drive a car, we should require one to pass a test before he or she is able to make a gun purchase and they should be licensed as competent to use a firearm before being able to purchase one. No semi-automatic weapons should be legal for civilian purchase. There should be locks on all firearms and etched serial numbers that are tamper-proof on all firearms and ammunition. There should be cross-checking so that someone cannot purchase firearms from different stores within a specified period of time.

    July 30, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  8. Eric

    I understand that some are scared of guns and those people should not buy one. LOL. If i would have been in that movie theatre, I would have had the ability to shoot back and maybe save a few lives.

    July 30, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • joecflee

      Yea. I really want someone like you to open fire in a dark theater. Instead of one psychopath, we'll have two, with twice the numbe ro casualties. You have a better chance of hitting an innocent than hitting the shooter.

      The problem with those opposed to gun control isn't that they're ignorant. As someone once said, it's not the fools who don't know that we're worried about. It's the ones who think they know, but are wrong. These are the ones who'll never learn.

      July 30, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
      • Ricardo J. DeForest

        Just for the record.....If I find myself caught between a mad man trying to kill me in a theater and a fellow armed citizen, I give my full permission to SHOOT up here anyway. Even if there is a CHANCE that you might hit me. The chances of this are slim because if I am in the front few rows I will have already dropped the physco with two to the chest and one to the head with my XD 9 with Trijicon Night Sights.

        July 30, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  9. OJ

    Guns don't kill people. Knives do!!!!

    July 30, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  10. James

    Fareed Z do us a favor, you bleeding heart P>O>S>, and LEAVE our country. Having weapons is what has prevented us from being invaded many times including WWII. And if you dont think China and Russia have designs on taking this fertile, open land your are CRAZY!

    July 30, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  11. David

    Again, no realistic solution proposed. No solution proposed at all. Nice work, Fareed. Way to stretch your intellect. It's clear you know your audience and who signs your paycheck.

    July 30, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  12. shutupkillery

    1% has been hiring "mercenaries" and "war veterans" as their private army, all in the name of "honoring the war heroes"

    while 1% wants to disarm 99%.

    makes all the sense to them.

    July 30, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  13. Darkseider

    This is the biggest piece of misinformation I have seen in quite a while. Mr. Zakaria is not only misinformed in his piece he is also flat out lying. There is no such this as an easily attainable automatic weapon. Any automatic firearm for civilian purchase must have been purchased prior to 1986 and can be transferred to a new owner. The cost of such firearms cost upwards of $20,000. It also requires that you pay a yearly tax stamp on the firearm as well as be able to produce said firearm on demand to the ATF which can perform an on demand unannounced inspection to ensure that you still maintain ownership of it. Now that that is out of the way a semi automatic rifle CANNOT be easily converted to fully automatic. The parts that are found in these semi auto rifles are not designed for sustained automatic fire like their assault rifle counterparts. Any attempt to convert such a firearm would take a skilled machinist and would still not guarantee proper or safe operation or operation at all seeing that the modifications could cause the gun to fail. Lastly any such conversion would require the individual or individuals involved to break the law in which case the moment the gun is fired or discovered this person or persons will face a mandatory 10 years in a federal penitentiary with no chance of EVER legally owning a firearm again.

    July 30, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  14. Jason

    Gun control is simply not the answer in the US. Time and time again, we want to limit the rights of law abiding citizens to "do something" after an incident like this. The reality is that no law out of Washington DC would have changed this deranged killer's actions. He broke MULTIPLE laws to accomplish his devilish act. The only thing gun laws do is limit law abiding citizen's ability to defend themselves from these killers.

    July 30, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  15. dc

    Since most of the mass murderers have a liberal Democrat background, wouldn't it be easier to outlaw liberal Democrats?

    July 30, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  16. Different View

    I am truly surprised by all of the responses here. Many, if not all are mindless and extreme in one way or another. I am not presenting sides in this case. I shall represent fact and question for yourself to ponder and decide for yourself.

    America has been free from Tyranny since the break from Royalty, which was initiated June 12 1776 when Virginia started with the declaration of rights stating that all are free. July 1-4th we declared independence from ANY other Nation, Government, and declared "We The People". Since then, United States of America has been free for 236 years and counting. No Hitler, Stalin, Mau Tse, or any other Tyrannical force has ruled over the USA. Ask yourself why that is. Why don't they dare come to the USA? Why don't they start in the USA? Why are Americans provided the 2nd Amendment (which shall not be infringed)? Why did the Federal Supreme Court of the United States rule that it's an individual right?

    Those who are for gun control/elimination/extreme regulation/registration/etc. I would like you to review history of Germany/North Korea/Soviet Union, to start with. Take the time to do research, ask yourself these questions, and put some real (non-bias) thought into them. I don't care if a gun is a rolling-block/flint-lock/blunderbuss/single-shot/semi-automatic/fully-automatic/bolt-action etc. That is not the point, and arguing that is not the solution. Think about it people. It's not that hard to figure out with rational thinking and a sane (non-bias) mind.

    "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." – George Santayana.

    "History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce." – Karl Marx.

    July 30, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • Gearloose

      It's not our private ownership of guns that preserves our freedom. Instead it's our free press and speech.
      For most, the private ownership of guns is primarily a hobby, and as such has little real impact to deter anything.

      July 30, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  17. Brian

    It's funny to me that his very short article spends most of its words on the statistics related to ownership... as though that's enough by itself to sway my opinion. He fails to mention that ownership is highly restricted in much of the globe either by laws or the sheer expense and fails to accout for the fact that much of the impoverished world doesn't record gun ownership so the statistics are very flawed.

    July 30, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  18. IronRider

    Instead of gun control we need to focus on Government Control. Our government has a 9% approval rating which by all standards is a failure and nothing short of tyranny. If you we're failing in top office that paid endless spurs of money you would want to take away the one thing that threatens your power and greed – guns. The fact is, more people are killed each year in cars then guns and even bee stings in this country. Aurora has strict gun control laws which are part of the problem. When you enact gun control laws the only thing you are doing is putting citizens in harm’s way. The reason Switzerland is less is because everyone has a gun which is a strong deterrent for criminals. This fear mongering and brain washing over gun control has got to stop. GUN CONTROL HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH PUBLIC SAFTEY. PERIOD. Stay away from the guns are get the hell out of this country.

    July 30, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Master

      You are right, man! People – preserve your freedom from government control!!!

      July 30, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  19. w4shep

    First, you can't get automatic weapons easily, unless maybe he is refering to Fast and Furious.

    Second, How many gun crimes are committed by legally registered firearms vs. illegally obtained firearms? I'm guessing the stats would show its illegally obtained firearms that are committing most of the crimes (except again for the aforementioned Fast and Furious).

    July 30, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  20. tanet G

    I am appreciate Fareed to stand up for this issue. He knows that against the Gun Control Law is the something most people try to avoid. If he speaks out about it, he could loose his popularity and more. But at the end, sometimes, we do something not because it is the popular thing to do but because IT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO.

    July 30, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  21. Ricardo J. DeForest

    Thats right. You don't want to show my last post do you beast? Because when we stad up, thats what scares you. Isn't it?

    July 30, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
  22. Jay

    Here is a simple solution..
    NRA yells, "Don't touch my guns! My gun rights are guaranteed by the second ammendment!!"
    The people of logic yell, "Do we really need assault rifles?!"
    I say yes and yes. Keep all your guns with no restrictive laws. But,
    instead of infringing upon your gun rights, I say manage bullets. Restrict the purchase ability and supply of ammunition. Paying $100 for a bullet will make you focus on accuracy and less on spraying gunfire. Suddenly wasting bullets in that assault rifle doesn't make sense to your wallet.
    Keep your guns NRA, you never know who needs a good shooting, just know that those bullets ain't cheap.

    July 30, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • ski2xs

      Sweet!! I'll be a millionaire overnite.

      Now, please tell me again how that will work with every range and open space area that allows shooting having millions and millions of casings of reladable brass. I have my own molds for .32, .38, 44, etc.

      I love the reading about the liberal utopia. . . it's like . . . . reading about Narnia! LOL

      July 30, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
      • Jay

        That was sarcasm. Of course it won't work.
        It illustrates the ignorance of you neo-cons (and your immediate reaction goes to a liberal utopia). Talk to England about gun crime and utopia.
        –Reality called, you didn't answer. Face it more guns = more gun crime, simple math, no matter how much you want to name call and stamp your NRA feet because someone wants to take away your pacifier, it's time to have a logical discussion without you gun owners getting all wound up and havin' to go shoot somethin'.

        July 30, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  23. Bob Lewis

    Although we cry out in horror when thee events happen, secretly, we love it. Violence is part of our culture and our true national religion. We worship guns, and thrive on fear and revenge. There's someone sitting their basement somewhere right now probably planning something horribly similar. Someone will eagerly sell him the weapons and we'll eagerly eat it up when it occurs while we cry crocodile tears one more time.

    July 30, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  24. joecflee

    Words of wisdom by Fareed. Words of ignorance by the masses. The problem in the world today is that we often answer increasingly irrelevant questions with increasing precision. Any idiot can figure out–less guns, less gun violence. Many idiots however, love to trot out NRA and Republican talking points... lots of precision, mostly irrelevant. We all know, less guns, less violence.

    Mitt Romney loves to talk about American Exceptionalism. We're exceptionally stupid when it comes to guns.

    July 30, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • Robert L. Barrett

      If you don't want a gun there friend then don't buy one or turn in the ones you have. Criminals are going to find a way to get whatever they want then have a fiend day with you who don't have any defense. Sorry but I'm keeping mine!! The second amendment is about armed citizens preventing tyranny.

      July 30, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • Ricardo J. DeForest

      You are so right Joecflee!! From the time man first walked the Earth until guns were invented there was nothing but peace! Do you think before you open your mouth?

      July 30, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  25. Johnny America

    Outlaw motor vehicles as well. A truck just killed 7 people by jumping a median and he wasn't even trying to kill anyone...that was just an accident.

    July 30, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  26. NativeUSA

    Fahreed recommendation, move back to where you came from...........change violence there before you create more here.

    July 30, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  27. Gunsmoke

    Arm everyone who is old enough and smart enough to be responsible to have a concealed carry license. If every responsible person carried, criminals would think twice about doing something stupid knowing they will likely end up being Swiss cheese.

    July 30, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  28. chunk a chunk

    We should have more guns so we can have more violence, so we can less violence.

    See how easy the NRA makes it for us.

    July 30, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  29. nehumanuscrede

    The argument is moot.

    The man was intent on killing as many as he could. He could have forgone the entire firearms path and simply started tossing the many home-made explosives that were rigged within his apartment instead. Last I checked explosives were illegal as well. 😐

    He could have waited for the theater to empty post-show and run his car through the dispersing crowds. Hell, if he took an Ambien beforehand, he would even have a socially acceptable excuse. ( Seems doing illegal things in the car under the influence of sleeping medication is ok these days )

    He could have simply walked in and doused the patrons with a flammable substance and lit the whole theater on fire in a matter of seconds.

    Folks need to get the whole " It's the guns fault " idea right out of their head. If someone is intent on mass destruction, they WILL find a way to do it, legal or otherwise.

    July 30, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  30. Robert L. Barrett

    Mr. Zakaria can take his numbers and shove them. Does he take into account that most of the murders involving firearms are in areas, states or even countries that have VERY strict gun laws. Has he noticed that nuts don't come out to gun ranges and commit crimes of this sort. Sorry Mr. Zakaria. I'm a law abiding, ARMED citizen and I will NEVER be an UNARMED SUBJECT.

    July 30, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
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