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. Eddie Caballero III

    The greatest deterrent to a foreign invasion ever.

    August 5, 2012 at 5:04 am | Reply
    • Ricardo J. DeForest

      Good point Eddie. That would explain why Fareed wants to take them. He has Omar right outside the gate waiting until we are disarmed to open it at midnight when we are all sleeping. Too late Fareed. Glenn has awaken the sleeping giant. The Tea Party is alive and well. Be careful Farred. Tread lightly. Treason carries a heavy price in a Tea Party run America.

      August 5, 2012 at 9:09 am | Reply
  2. Manuel Vieira

    Only CNN (who ironically hasn't mentioned a word about how Obama is suing to suppress the Military Vote in Ohio, would give the time of day to Mr. Fareed Zakaria... One thing is Obvious here, Fareed Hates the Land that made him rich, though that's not surprising when one considers most Islamist we allow to immigrate here feel the same way.... One has to wonder why we allow this trash into our sacred land, when they would never even consider allowing any Christian of Patrotic American to ever settle in their trash bins.....

    August 5, 2012 at 9:23 am | Reply
    • Nina

      Any proof?
      Anything at all?

      August 5, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Reply
    • Nina

      What is your source?

      August 5, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Reply
  3. steve123

    Gee it it's so bad here, why are people from the "green" areas so anxious to live here? Oh and why did you conviently forget to mention the high violence rate in the "green" areas with other weapons. Didn't one such "green" area experience a wholesale massacre recently? And aren't people "enslaved" by local war lords in some of these "green" areas? Check out " Innocents Betrayed " on youtube and just see what has happened to "disarmed" people in the past.
    Also as far as crime is concerned, "when seconds count, the police will be there in a few minutes".

    August 5, 2012 at 10:39 am | Reply
  4. A. Allen

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

    Try to tell that to the law abiding Citizens of Chicago and New York!

    August 6, 2012 at 3:26 am | Reply
  5. b. leonard

    everyone talks around the issue....the details are not important...automatic semiauto whatevermatic...doesnt matter...the point is that americans enjoy killing people with guns...if we had no guns we would have few gun murders...simple as that.

    AT one time i owned half a dozen guns... i seldom used them..it was just cool having them.
    The one day i just gave them all away...you know what i dont even miss them.

    August 6, 2012 at 6:14 am | Reply
  6. Paul Heim

    I am a handgun owner and I DO NOT keep it for the express purpose of"shooting someone". I use it for the sole purpose of going to a shooting range, period. Most of the time I do not even have any ammunition in the house. And for those who think that military assault weapons should be kept out of the hands of civilians I would like to point out that in Germany as long as the magazine is limited to 10 rounds they can be owned legally. Now mind you it takes a good deal of training and money and a license to own one but the point is they are LEGAL under these stated conditions.

    August 6, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Reply
  7. sHAUN

    Ok, let's talk about car related deaths. I bet were no. 1 on that list too. Guess we should outlaw cars. The rest of the world doesn't need any guns because the us is there to bail their tail out of trouble. There will never be an invasion on the mainland of the USA simply because we are so well armed. Your numbers are a bit misleading too. The reason "we" have so many guns is because we are the leading manufacturer and exporter of guns . So we have a lot of stock. We may average 88 guns for every 100 person but that's misleading. The founding fathers thought it was so important to be able to bear arms that they put it as number 2. Our right's to bear arms is not so we can go hunting or so we can collect antiques. It's to protect ourselves from an oppressive government and it's works pretty well so far. The policeman doesn't carry a weapon to protect you, it's to protect him!!! We were founded on these principles and it will always be that way. I'm sorry that people died as a result of this nutcase. But there have been way more people over the course of our history lay down their lives to protect our freedoms, one of which is to "KEEP and BEAR ARMS!. If you want to live in the pansie-ass light green shaded areas I suggest you pack your hacky-sack, frisbee, and save the whale tee shirts and go live there. We're keeping our guns. All of them. Assault weapons and all.

    August 9, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Reply
  8. Shirley Smith's Blog

    Well said Fareed. I wonder how many more innocent people will have to die before our lawmakers get it. See http://shirleysmithblog.wordpress.com.

    August 10, 2012 at 4:22 am | Reply
    • Marvin Gardner

      Both you and Fareed don't get it and you both never will. As the truest saying goes"Guns don't kill people,people kill people".If a criminal minded person has the mindset to kill,then he will kill no matter what restrictions are in place.Its not the gun manufactures fault that when people decide to kill and they use guns to carry out the act.
      Greater gun restriction are only hurting law abiding citizens like myself who own a gun and use common sense when handling and using a gun.
      Read the Second Amendment.Look at the stats where gun violence is not the number one killer.

      August 12, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Reply
  9. Doug Hoyt

    You just don't get it. This is America, guns are part of the culture. I know you are from somewhere else, enjoy your stay, but don't try to change our culture.
    Years ago while in college, I started a gun club. This was a very liberal school. It became the biggest club on campus because students loved shooting guns at the local range. They learned gun safety, care and laws of gun ownership.

    Universal healthcare would probably have a greater impact on violence in our society than banning all guns. Indeed, you may enjoy going to a gun range and learning to shoot, too. It is a great stress reliever.

    August 10, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Reply
  10. Cellstrom

    Where is the other article on the history of gun control laws in US?!! Why was that removed? That was a factual report that allowed all to understand that the current capitulation to the NRA was not always the case and that very conservative judge said it was a great fraud perpetrated on America. CNN if you removed it due to a sponsor, especially if that sponsor was tied to the NRA lobby, you should be ashamed. It was a factual article, kinda what the fourth estate is supposed to do. Maybe this is why your ratings are dropping like hot lead from a 100 round magazine.

    August 10, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Reply
  11. niyol

    Let's take a look at perpetrators of gun crimes by race... wouldn't be politically correct of course, but might tell an interesting story...

    August 10, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Reply
  12. Sparky

    Yes, Fareed played fast and loose with the facts, including the reference to ease of automatic gun ownership. The big lie being pushed in the article is that the easy access to guns in some areas of America are the cause of the carnage. When a scholarly exam of gun-based shooting is performed, the results are clear; disarming otherwise legal and good citizens does not reduce violence. If this were true Washington DC and Chicago would be bucolic wonderlands, instead of the shooting galleries that they are. Read "More Guns, Less Crime", and learn the truth that the anti-gun Left does not want you to hear. "gun violence" is not monolithic, it has a number of distinct facets, and each must be understood before suggesting potential solutions. The particular crime that we are all responding to today is a gun crime committed by the mentally deranged. Banning high capacity magazines and tracking bullet sales will do nothing to prevent this form of wanton destruction. Holmes would have found the mags and the 70 or so bullets he used, one way or another. And his mindset and abilities would have found other more destructive modes, in the absence of the firearm equipment. The solution is not hardware based, it is based in the heart. If the medical and other support systems fail to identify and help those whose hearts have turned black, as can be shown to be the case in almost every fatal mass shooting, then the gun laws on the books today cannot and will not work. The sad and potentially evil folks *always* send up red flags that their reality is becoming dark. Time to start acting on these signals, and stop talking about making it more difficult for good, honest Americans to defend themselves. Remember: the police have no legal obligation to stop crime, nor could they in most cases. They are there to investigate and deter crime, it is up to you, your friends and your neighbors to defend yourselves. Let's not make the job more difficult with more gun laws.

    August 11, 2012 at 9:40 am | Reply
  13. Doug

    "......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."

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

    This is an obvious conclusion when ONLY looking at "gun-related deaths". "Gun-relate deaths" is an extremely non-specific quantifier which could also include all instances of lawful acts of self-defense. If violence and crime was only constrained to the realm of guns, then perhaps these statements would actually be validated.

    What this data does NOT show is that the rate of overall violent crime in these states is disturbingly higher than states with fewer gun control laws. Omitting directly related and contradictory facts (to the opinion of the given author) seems to be common these days. It's too bad that the every day reader over looks this.

    August 11, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Reply
  14. Doug

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

    Why does the world's opinion of our own issues matter? Seriously. Why should their opinions matter? These are OUR issues and should only be impacted by OUR opinions. The extreme vast majority of non gun owning Americans know next to nothing about American gun laws, so I doubt the rest of the world is any more informed if not less so.

    Grossly distorted ideas (both pro & con) regarding the American culture and American gun ownership is the norm across the world. As such, distorted ideas producing distorted opinions (pro or con) should in NO WAY be considered when evaluating ourselves.

    August 11, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Reply
  15. Doug

    "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."

    This is a result of fewer restrictions on LAWFUL gun owners. A fact verified and confirmed in any independently refereed study. "More Guns, Less Crime" by economist John Lott is an example of a refereed study
    "They were at roughly the same levels in 2009 as they were in 2000"

    We've only seen fewer gun restrictions on lawful gun owners for a couple of years now. The bulk of that decade contained more gun control measures than there are now.

    August 11, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Reply
  16. Doug

    "What we can do is change our gun laws."

    Maybe. Keep in mind that criminals do not follow the law. It's kind of the central defining characteristic that dictates their behavior. With that, any gun law passed will have no impact on their actions, ability to acquire weapons, or ability to use those weapons at their full potential. The war on drugs proves this as does a thousand years of history. Crazy people are no different. If they want a gun and can't buy one legally, they will find one elsewhere and there's not enforcement measure that can prevent it. Sorry.

    Aurora was a horrible event that could have been worse if he hadn't simply decided to stop on his own. Many many more would be dead if Holmes had kept going until police stopped him. Nothing against the police but they can't be everywhere at once. It's just how it is.

    I know it sounds scary to many people, but the only way he, or any other criminal or crazy person, could have been stopped was by a lawfully armed citizen, vetted by the state, as is the case with current concealed carry permits.

    Any restrictive measure will ONLY affect the law-abiding. The law-abiding people who are responsible gun owners that respect and value life enough to defend it; frequently at the risk of their own lives. Those are EXACTLY the kind of people you who deserve and should carry firearms.

    You can't un-invent guns and you nor can you isolate yourself from the existence of guns, not even in total gun ban countries. The real overall issue isn't GUN violence......it's VIOLENCE itself. You can never eradicate it, restrict it, or isolate it. You can only STOP it from happening to you. Ultimately, your safety is your responsibility. It's not the government's responsibility nor is it law enforcement's responsibility. It's yours. You should be free to have access to an effective means to protect yourself. At the very least, you should have the right to at least CHOOSE to access the means to protect yourself should you find you need it in the future.

    August 11, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Reply
  17. James

    The author of this article has reportedly been suspended for plagiarism.

    August 11, 2012 at 9:26 pm | Reply
  18. James


    August 11, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Reply
  19. James

    He should have been suspended for slanted journalism.

    August 11, 2012 at 9:31 pm | Reply
  20. James

    He quoted the Brady Score Card, but didn't question nor present the NRA's side.

    August 11, 2012 at 9:34 pm | Reply
  21. Ricardo J. DeForest

    Who wants to bet against me? I will wager that when it comes time for Fareed to protect his family he either carries a weapon or hires people to carry weapons for him. He deserves to be safe but no one else is. Typical Leftist hypocrisy!! Any takers?

    August 12, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Reply
  22. Marvin Gardner

    I don't know where this guy got his information by saying that states with stricter gun control laws have less crime. I think he was smoking to much camel crap. States with open and concealed carry laws have less crime than states with restrictive gun laws.
    This dude needs to do his research again.I guess this guy hasn't been to Long Beach,CA,South Central or Compton,CA or in Brooklyn,NY or the Bronx.He would see a whole different story than the one he is talking about.

    August 12, 2012 at 10:01 pm | Reply
  23. repair service

    Somebody necessarily lend a hand to make severely posts I would state. That is the very first time I frequented your website page and up to now? I surprised with the research you made to create this particular post amazing. Fantastic process!

    August 13, 2012 at 2:45 am | Reply
  24. Brad

    So as guns are becoming easier to acquire there are more injuries?... Perhaps there should be general training required? Instead of just filling out a form, and perhaps a 10 year check up or something to make sure you still know what end of the gun hot lead comes out of?

    August 14, 2012 at 9:27 pm | Reply
  25. TheWordpressGhost

    Reblogged this on thewordpressghost and commented:
    Face the facts on gun deaths.

    Since the US government attacked the family, and Hollywood began their assault on family, murder rates have gone up, and convictions have dropped DRASTICALLY.

    It is not about the guns, it is about who they want killed.


    August 16, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Reply
  26. Ricardo J. DeForest

    Hey Fareed......COPYCAT!!!!

    August 22, 2012 at 10:21 pm | Reply
  27. JBoston

    "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."

    As usual Fareed Zakaria is straight up lying to the public.

    According the FBI's own Crime in The United States annual report which clearly shows that firearm homicides have reduced by 14% since 2010 and, in fact, have been steadily decreasing since the worthless "Assault Weapons Ban" expired in 2004.

    August 27, 2012 at 11:38 pm | Reply
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