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. shane

    I love these people who are so eager to show how much they know about what you need to do to be allowed an automatic weapon. Don't you realize it shows how hard you have researched and dreamed about this?! What possible reason could you give for needing or wanting an automatic weapon??? Is it just b@d@ass dude? Is it like paintball but even better bro? You are all pathetic I roll my eyes and patiently wait for evolution to weed you out.

    July 30, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
  2. shane

    Hey can I get a mountain lion permit to go with my class III firearm license. I want to raise mountain lions cuz I believe in freedom. If they get out it's cool cuz I'll just blas' em with my uber dope AR15 bro check it check it! LOL

    July 30, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
  3. justice

    How many criminals follow laws? Think they'll follow gun control laws?

    July 30, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
  4. Justin

    Fareed Zakaria...wrong guy to publish this article CNN. Hey Fareed just because your ancestors and probably immediate family kill in the name of religion and use guns for mass genocide dosent mean your an expert on the subject. Your an idiot and should be deported for spreading your evil sidious propaganda.

    July 30, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
  5. bob bowen

    short and simple albeit not so easy to internalize/appreciate.





    peace and cheers

    July 30, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
    • Jerry

      Even without bullets, a gun is a club. Then you're likely to get killed by some idiot who thinks you can knock someone out with the butt of a gun without crushing their skull or their neck vertebrae 'cause they see it on TV all the time. People are idiots and gun-grabbing liberals are the biggest idiots of them all.

      Government is beholden to the citizenry for its power only so long as that same citizenry possesses the means to overthrow that government. Once a government no longer has to fear revolution it no longer has to respect the rights of the people.

      July 30, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
  6. Brian

    It is simple. If you own a gun you practice cowardice, whether you are a nutcase, drug dealer, or law abiding citizen. It is your spiritual choice. And the people who choose not to own guns have to put up with you.

    July 30, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
    • Jerry

      And I suppose that when the lead starts flyin' you'll be the hero for running away and hiding whilst myself and the other "cowards" are trying to put the maniac down and save the unfortunate and unarmed?

      Have you ever seen what happens when a fox gets into a henhouse? Ever hear of a fox stupid enough to try to get into the henhouse when there's a guard dog on duty? I imagine there's been some but natural selection makes sure they are few and far between. You play the part of "Chicken Number 1" (double entendre intended!) in this little example, who would be dead were it not for the deterrent presented by myself in the role of "Guard Dog" (A.K.A. Man With Gun). We're the ones who have to put up with the likes of you and your LKRS (Liberal Kneejerk Reactive Syndrome,) every time somebody uses a gun to shoot, well, ANYTHING. Get over yourself!

      July 31, 2012 at 12:30 am |
  7. Don

    You got it mostly wrong, specifically with the ease to obtain automatic weapons. Your article was hastedly written without fully understanding all the facts. Statistics will show what the author wants to show, else would you have publish it otherwise? Why don't you write articles on how the use of guns by law-abiding citizens have saved life or property. Why is the media so anti-gun? Here's the bottom line. Our 2nd Amendment rights have diminished through alot of gun control regulations. It has dis-enpowered its citizens. If citizens were alowed to carry openly their firearms, this Aurora, CO incident may have been mitigated. If you were in that theatre, I sure you would have appreciated someone shooting James Holmes.

    July 30, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
    • Henry,Yall Idiots.

      Don you make me crack up with your idiotic comments. You stated " You got it mostly wrong, specifically with the ease to obtain automatic weapons. Your article was hastedly written without fully understanding all the facts" See the ONLY thing he got wrong ONLY fact was him stating about Semi and semi-automatic weapons. He states truth for the entire article. He is completely right until you can provide prof. Shut up. Because you make this country look stupid. the 2nd AMNDT was written over 200 years ago its weakened so much because its simply just outdated and can not provide the safety and rules against these so called future weapons.

      July 30, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
      • Don

        Henry, Yall Idiots,
        Here's another Fareed mis-FACT; gun control laws have not eased up, not in California, and not in New York. So look up the current legislative bills that is being actively discussed. And Henry, Yall Idiots , I'm sure you would have appreciated someone shooting James Holmes had you been in that theatre. And that my friend is a fact.

        July 30, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
      • sfg

        Learn to spell dumfukkk.

        July 31, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  8. Burst Bubble

    Dr. Z maybe you should stick to something you really know about like medicine? You seem to make the argument that this is a black and white issue when it really isn't. You have shown that you are confused about semi automatic weapons, automatic. Spewing out percentages taken out of context is a really bad argument. As others have said it is diffiecult to obtain an automatic weapon because of back ground checks, license one has to get, plus the ATF can come any day or night to "check" on you to see if you have your weapon. We don't need anymore laws on gun control. It is getting sensationalized to instill FEAR in people. Next time you list your weapons propaganda be honest about how many of those guns were stolen by criminals and used in a crime. Don't list guns in one big pile it skews the numbers. You are lucky you get to spout off on subjects you don't know that much about and get paid for it. People are such sheep in the USA.

    July 30, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
  9. Henry,Yall Idiots.

    All of you are complete idiots. Whether he made a mistake about semi or automatic which WHO CARES he is talking about FACTS. I looked up all facts he stated yes out of the two dozen he got ONE Wrong. Gosh Any reason to bash someone smart and on the Left side get over it. He showed prof that gun regulations are weak loopy and just plain worn out. ITS TRUE!. It is time to better regulate on this issue. Case and point its not the wild west anymore because the US put stricter laws on guns!!! Why would we want vigilantism in the streets of America causing confusion and uproar. It's certainly proven that it's not going to work nor has it ever! Some of you guys just don't understand the truth and facts. Too lazy to really learn and properly educate yourselves. Just listen to right wing conservative propaganda. I just feel embarrassed seeing these comments. Poor America.

    July 30, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
  10. Jerry

    Zakaria you are seemingly incapable of logic. Not to mention you have lied. It has not become easier to get automatic weapons (which is irrelevant as the shooter did not use an automatic weapon) and gun laws have not become "looser". All you're doing is trying to vilify law-abiding citizens based on possessions. Just because I have guns does not make me a criminal. How can anyone logically conclude that increased laws to govern the lawful would have any effect on the lawless?

    July 30, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
  11. 2tired2care

    The problem is this countries uncontrollable desire to own guns. Most countries don't share our weird obsession with guns.

    July 30, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
  12. Jerry

    If I wanted to kill a bunch of people quite quickly I could just run a large SUV into a crowd: should we now outlaw automobiles? If I wanted to kill people I would hardly need a gun to do it but if some whack-job decides to shoot-up a place I'm at I'd have a damn sight better chance of surviving if I had my own gun to stop him.

    The day we allow you whiny liberals to take away our guns is the day we let Freedom die in America.

    July 30, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
  13. Wolf

    Perhaps the commentary would have carried more weight if it wasn't written by Zakaria, a muslim best noted for his anti-American posts here as well as his numerous anti-American speeches to various organizations. If you would like my guns please feel free to ask for them. We can set up a time for you to swing by and pick them up. I'll give you the bullets first.

    July 30, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
  14. shane

    oh yeah and you nutjorbs who think these weapons are for "overthrowin the gubment". I protect this gubment from nuts like you so bring it on. You won't get very far with your banana clip BS. We will drop you before you even figure out why your POS won't fire.

    July 30, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
  15. obama's mouthpiece fareed spews again...what a puppet


    July 30, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
  16. Carl Bennet

    The logical flaw made here is: A correlation among factors proves a causal relationship. Consider this for example: The USA population enjoys the most freedoms of any people. The USA population has the most guns per capita. Thus, guns make the USA population free? Or is it that, being free, makes the USA population have more guns per capita? Sorry; but It is the lack of a statistical correlation that proves the independence of factors. A correlation among factors, may or may not be the result of a causal connection between factors.

    July 30, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
  17. Nate

    Guns are for stupid people.

    July 30, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • Lee

      I believe it was Lincoln that said "It's is better to remain silent and be thought a fool then to open one's mouth and remove all doubt"

      July 31, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  18. scott wagner

    One key fact missing. The United States is 35th in the world for murders per 100,000. When people want to kill... they will kill. Guns or no guns. This guy, if it weren't for firearms, would still have tried to kill people in the theatre. Like many violent countries with few weapons, he would have used a bomb, and we would be talking about 100s of people killed instead of a dozen. As odd as it seems, be thankful he chose a gun.

    July 30, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
  19. Strange1

    Articles like this simply will set off a firearms buying frenzy. I question much of the statistical "information." For example, I'm a liberal who believes in gun rights and I hunt. But I see all these articles about "automatic" weapons used by people who wouldn't know the difference between automatic or semi-automatic. Also, we see all the issues related to the sweep of revolution going across North Africa and the Middle-East, where there obviously are weapons in use in revolutionary actions – and those weapons invariably are automatic weapons. I've never used a weapon in anger or defense and hope to never do so. But to restrict my firearms rights because of the actions of others is not going to solve the problem of violence in the US. And, by the way, statistics about violent and non-violent crimes are based on reports from local law enforcement agencies. When it is beneficial to their funding or for grants then the "reported" crimes go up; when it is beneficial to show lower crime statistics (such as election time for Sheriffs) then reported crimes go down. Statistical information may be a good place to start in understanding trends, but crime reports are among the most unreliable sources of information.

    July 30, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
  20. anon

    Pretty sure Zakaria is still on the weekly vistors list at the White House to get his weekly agenda ready for a "news" outlet.

    July 30, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
  21. rtwingal

    Mr. Zakaria,
    How about a solution that will work? If all sales of new guns were banned and if our country's population grew to exceed that of China, we'd still have more guns than any other country.Three times as many people are killed in car accidents each year than are murdered by guns. Bring back the horse and buggy? Christopher Reeves eventually died as the result of a fall from a horse. There are no easy solutions but you did not even propose one.

    July 31, 2012 at 1:28 am |
  22. williamhazlitt

    Half of Americans own guns. If the left proposes to take them away then go ahead and try. It would be the biggest fiasco since Prohibition.

    Once a people has tasted freedom it is hard to take it away.

    July 31, 2012 at 1:48 am |
    • Texas Patriot

      You are absolutely correct william, its too bad the dems are too stupid to realize it. This country was founded and formed with guns in its mists and nothing will change that. If you don't like my America, pack up your crap and hit the road you bunch of toads!!!!!

      July 31, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  23. RogerE

    Americans who support the second amendment don't like facts. Like the fact that you can't kill or injure that many people with a knife. You can't outrun a gun. I'd take my chances with a madman with a knife versus a madman with a gun.

    July 31, 2012 at 2:03 am |
    • Dleo

      What about a madman with all the guns? Like a dictator. Think it can't happen here? Read a history book.

      July 31, 2012 at 2:28 am |
  24. hipshooter

    guns don't kill people. people kill people. let's ban all people. lol

    July 31, 2012 at 2:06 am |
  25. Dleo

    Your forum threading sux.

    July 31, 2012 at 2:26 am |
  26. Peace Child

    To an outsider like me it looks rediculous that instead of concentrating on the core message of Zakaria's article people seem to be displaying their knowledge of guns. THE CORE MESSAGE IS THE CORRELATION BETWEEN GUN VIOLENCE/CRIMINALITY AND THE USA's HIGHEST RATIO OF GUN OWNERSHIP. If my memory serves me well, there was once a similar incident in Australia way back, and the authorities reacted by toughening gun laws and restricting gun ownership, and look at the results, lesser gun violence.

    July 31, 2012 at 4:14 am |
    • Ricardo J. DeForest

      Your name is peace Child and you say WE look "rediculous"!! [sic] Peace is always protected by guns. You could not sleep in peace at night if someone were standing on the wall with a rifle. The Second Amendment is my birth right. Whether it looks ridiculous to you or not, try to take my rifle at your own peril. If yo do decide to try you had better bring several rifles with you just to have a chance! Ironic, isn't it?

      July 31, 2012 at 6:52 am |
    • Leo

      Actually, gun violence in Australia went down but crime went up. Robberies, break-ins, assaults, etc. increased because there was little reason to be concerned about armed citizens.

      July 31, 2012 at 7:13 am |
  27. rightospeak

    Your article indicates a Globalist,Leftist agenda. Guns do not kill people ,people do and as one of the comments indicated it is Colorado's Leftist agenda that contributed to the problem. Whereever gun laws are the strickest -the violent crime seems to be the greatest, Washington DC can be an example. Bloomberg in another violent crime rat whole ,N.Y. would like to take arms away from people while he would always be protected with an army of body guards. You may want to look at the relationship of violent crime vs gun ownership and laws in the U.S. Forget the world.In Communist countries guns are the first things to be taken away so that people can be enslaved. I guess you would like that for us.

    July 31, 2012 at 5:13 am |
  28. laststonecarver

    Norman Bates' Mother: It is sad when a mother has to speak the words that condemn her own son. I can't allow them to think I would commit murder. They'll put him away now as I should have years ago. He was always bad and in the end he intended to tell them I killed those girls and that man, as if I could do anything but just sit and stare like one of his stuffed birds. They know I can't move a finger and I want to just sit here and be quiet just in case they suspect me. They're probably watching me. Well, let them. Let them see what kind of a person I am. I'm not even going to swat that fly. I hope they are watching... they'll see. They'll see and they'll know, and they'll say, "Why, she wouldn't even harm a fly..."

    July 31, 2012 at 7:19 am |
  29. Leo

    While the presence of guns may mean guns will be used in violent crime, removing the guns does not remove the violence in the society. England is a good example. The English disarmed their citizens but found that violent crime with knives became more common. Their answer to that was to pass laws that make carrying a decent pocket knife a crime. In the recent London riots the thugs ran wild and the store owners and other private citizens could only watch the destruction while the police, who were not properly armed, left the looters to their own devices. An armed citizenry would at least have had a chance to protect their own property.

    In anticipation of the next comments, no the lives of the looters were not worth more than the goods they stole. They proved that when they started the rioting and looting.

    July 31, 2012 at 7:24 am |
    • Bob

      ANd in the London Riots on several occasions the police were actually shot at with Handguns... and to think that they have been outlawed for 20-30 years now... but a criminal had one... wow gun control works alright... that's because no one there could return fire... if a riot were to occur near my house and someone were to start waving a gun threatening the citizens would be more then capable of dealing with the threat before he hurt someone else...

      July 31, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  30. infonomics

    The entire gun control issue can be summarized by focusing on the most powerful man in the world, Obama. Obama lives behind a fence with 365/24 security. And what does Obama's security use? Guns.

    July 31, 2012 at 7:38 am |
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