Comparative firearms statistics for selected countries - Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

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Deaths involving firearms, per 100,000 persons, by country (1997)





Total (a)
Argentina (b) 3.83 1.50 .. .. .. ..
Australia 2.40 0.56 12.77 2.38 0.11 3.05
Austria 2.14 0.53 .. c c c
Belarus 9.86 27.26 0.23 .. d d
Belgium 3.87 .. .. .. .. ..
Brazil 29.17 25.78 0.63 0.44 0.75 26.97
Burkina Faso 0.04 .. 0.95 0.14 0.05 ..
Canada 1.99 0.60 12.88 3.35 0.13 4.08
China .. c c c c c
Costa Rica 5.52 2.57 6.54 1.61 0.29 4.47
Czech Republic 2.80 0.92 9.88 1.01 0.07 2.00
Denmark .. d d d d d
Ecuador .. c c c c c
Estonia 22.11 6.12 39.99 3.63 0.40 10.15
Finland 3.25 0.87 27.28 5.78 0.12 6.77
Germany 1.81 0.21 15.80 1.23 0.03 1.47
Greece 1.33 0.55 3.54 1.30 0.02 1.87
Guinea 0.34 0.03 .. d d d
Hungary 4.07 0.47 33.34 0.88 .. ..
India 9.76 0.06 0.26 .. d d
Jamaica 31.60 18.23 1.46 0.36 0.12 18.72
Japan 0.60 0.03 17.95 0.04 0.01 0.07
Luxembourg .. .. .. .. .. ..
Malaysia 2.13 0.20 1.83 0.00 0.08 0.29
Mexico .. c c c c c
New Zealand 1.35 0.22 13.81 2.45 0.29 2.97
Papua New Guinea .. .. .. .. .. ..
Peru 1.41 1.06 0.42 0.10 0.02 1.18
Philippines 16.89 3.61 .. d d d
Poland 2.61 0.27 14.23 0.16 0.01 0.44
Republic of Moldova 17.06 0.63 .. .. .. ..
Romania 4.32 0.12 .. d d d
Russian Federation .. .. .. .. .. ..
Singapore 1.62 -- 9.89 .. .. ..
Slovakia 2.38 0.36 13.24 0.58 .. ..
South Africa 64.64 26.63 .. .. .. ..
Spain 1.58 0.19 5.92 0.55 0.26 1.01
Sweden 1.35 0.31 15.65 1.95 0.05 2.31
Trinidad and Tobago 9.48 3.42 8.08 0.08 0.54 4.04
Tunisia 0.02 -- .. c c c
Uganda .. .. .. .. .. ..
United Kingdom 1.40 0.13 7.55 0.33 0.02 0.57
United Republic of Tanzania 7.42 0.50 0.88 0.02 0.02 0.53
United States 8.95 6.24 11.54 7.23 0.58 14.05
Viet Nam 0.77 0.12 0.02 0.04 0.18 c
Zambia 10.74 5.37 0.68 0.15 0.02 5.54
States providing figures 36 33 28 28 27 23
Minimum figure 0.04 -- 0.42 0.005 -- 0.07
Maximum figure 64.64 26.63 39.99 7.23 0.75 26.97
Average figure 7.86 3.28 11.56 1.28 0.17 4.90
Note: Figures are for the latest year reported. The years differ, depending on the State and on the type of death. The data are "as reported" in the survey. There are often differences in the way in which States compile statistics. International comparisons should therefore be made with caution.

a The total may include figures for different years.

b Figures are for Buenos Aires only (population: approximately 3 million).

c No response.

d Not reasonably available (i.e. cannot be obtained with reasonable effort).

The above table shows the total homicide rate and the rate for homicides involving firearms.

Those statistics were the most complete, as 33 States provided data for both. Again, there was considerable variability among countries; the number of homicides involving firearms ranged from 0 to 26.63 per 100,000 persons.

The proportion of total homicides accounted for by homicides involving firearms ranged from 0 to 88 per cent; the average proportion was 27 per cent.

Fifteen States provided data on the extent to which homicides involving firearms were committed with handguns. The proportion of homicides involving firearms accounted for by homicides committed with handguns, in one year ranged from 0 to 92 per cent. The proportions for each State were as follows:

Argentina, 0 per cent; Brazil, 85 per cent; Canada, 54 per cent; Greece, 3 per cent; Japan, 88 per cent; Malaysia, 51 per cent; New Zealand, 0 per cent; Singapore, no homicides; Slovakia, 79 per cent; South Africa, 68 per cent; Spain, 50 per cent; United Kingdom, 92 per cent; United Republic of Tanzania, 1 per cent; United States, 83 per cent; and Viet Nam, 21 per cent.

The survey also yielded some limited data on the number of law enforcement officers killed while on duty, the relationship between offenders and victims, victim gender and sexual assault in which firearms were involved. The proportion of all homicides involving firearms accounted for by those in which the offender and victim were related ranged from 0 to 80 per cent.


Many States reported significant policy or programme initiatives on firearms that had occurred within the previous five years or that were taking place at the time of the survey. Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia and United Kingdom reported comprehensive reforms of their legislation on firearms. Major legislative reform was reported to be under discussion or pending in Brazil, Denmark, Finland, India, Jamaica, Poland and South Africa. Eight States reported that no further significant changes were being contemplated in those areas.

Twenty-five States reported changes in legislation or administration regarding the civilian ownership of firearms, including new licensing requirements, more detailed information required in licence applications, safety training or psychological tests required to become eligible for a licence and stricter penalties for offences involving firearms. Certain European States noted changes to conform with Council of the European Communities directive 91/447/EEC.

Twenty-five States reported significant initiatives to prevent firearm smuggling and other illegal dealings in firearms. Such initiatives included the tightening of border controls; the use of new technology and the training of personnel in border control; increased cooperation with other States (e.g. bilateral agreements); agreements with enterprises in private industry, including freight companies and airlines; and stricter penalties for smuggling offences. Some States had established firearm investigative units.

Twenty-four States reported particular initiatives by law enforcement agencies to improve coordination or the overall effectiveness of regulations on firearms. Such initiatives included the introduction or the development of computers for maintaining records; the creation of new registries of information on firearms or firearm owners; the training of law enforcement officers in firearm identification and ballistics; and cooperative arrangements with law enforcement agencies of other States.

Twenty-one States reported on initiatives to promote public awareness of firearm regulations and firearm safety. Australia, South Africa and the United Kingdom indicated that amnesty programmes, whereby persons turned in illegal or unwanted firearms, were useful for promoting public awareness. Some States also noted that firearm associations and interest groups were helpful in promoting public awareness.

States were asked whether an incident involving firearms had occurred in recent years that might have raised public concern and focused the attention of government or law enforcement agencies on the issue of firearm regulation. Twenty-seven States replied affirmatively.

Other international data sources (e.g. WHO, Interpol, the World Customs Organization and the international crime (victim) survey), yielded a range of useful information on levels of firearm-related harm. In their current form, however, those sources did not permit an accurate and comprehensive measurement of comparative levels of harm. While they appeared to present widely varying estimates of the extent of firearm- related harm for the same countries, such variances were largely attributable to differing methods of compilation.

Crime victim surveys, for example, included incidents that did not come to the attention of the police; the resulting figures usually exceeded those obtained from counts of incidents reported to police. In addition, police statistics often included attempted homicides in their counts of homicides, resulting in higher numbers than mortality statistics compiled by health authorities. Police record-keeping methodologies often differed from country to country (e.g. some counted numbers of victims, others counted numbers of incidents) and for that reason were difficult to compare at the international level.

The most consistent set of information on firearm-related harm seemed to be the firearm-related death statistics compiled by WHO from internationally standardized reports on causes of death. The firearm-specific data included in the WHO database, however, had only been analysed for a limited number of countries. The data obtained by the international study on firearm regulation involving numbers and rates for homicides and suicides seemed to be comparable to those included in the WHO analysis.

Very little comparative information was found on firearm regulation or trafficking.


The expert group unanimously agreed that the undertaking of the study had provided the first truly international comparative description of the levels of firearm-related harm and the national and international efforts being made to regulate firearms and to reduce that harm.

Although the study data at the time did not permit an accurate measurement of the levels of firearm- related harm, it did point to significant harm flowing from the unlawful or other unauthorized use of firearms as evidenced by the following:

(a) Firearm-related deaths in responding States, including suicides, homicides, and accidents, ranged from 0.07 to 26.97 per 100,000 persons;

(b) Firearm-related suicides in responding States ranged from nearly 0 to 7.23 per 100,000 persons;

(c) Firearm-related accidents in responding States ranged from 0 to 0.75 per 100,000 persons;

(d) Firearm-related homicides in responding States ranged from 0 to 26.63 per 100,000 persons. In many countries law enforcement officials were among the victims;

(e) The share of firearm-related homicides that involved handguns ranged from 0 to 92 per cent;

(f) The share of firearm-related homicides in which there was a domestic or family relationship between the offender and the victim ranged from 0 to 80 per cent. Only 16 States provided such information, and there was little information provided on the other characteristics of victims of firearm-related harm (e.g. gender or age).

Other international data sources (e.g. WHO, Interpol, the World Customs Organization, the international crime (victim) survey) also did not provide accurate and comprehensive comparative data on levels of firearm- related harm and of firearm regulation.

In recent years, many States had found it necessary to increase their levels of firearm regulation. In the survey data there was also evidence that significant incidents of firearm-related harm occurring in one country may have had an impact on the policy-formulation process in relation to firearms control in other countries. However, the survey data did not permit a comprehensive comparative assessment of the levels of such regulation.

Thus, existing sources of information, including the international study on firearm regulation, still could not be used to evaluate the comparative effectiveness of current levels of firearm regulation in reducing harm.

Other general findings at the country level included the following:

(a) The majority of responding States regulated the ownership, import, export and manufacture of firearms at the national level, although in many countries the administration and enforcement of those regulations were the responsibility of regional and even local governments;

(b) The majority of responding States regulated firearms to some extent; they prohibited the ownership of certain types of long guns and handguns and they restricted the ownership of all others;

(c) The majority of responding States prohibited the import, export and manufacture of certain long guns and handguns. The majority of States also restricted the import, export and manufacture of all long guns and handguns. Most States had adopted similar policies with regard to the levels of prohibition and restriction in relation to both the import and export of firearms, although several States that restricted all importation of guns did not place the same degree of restriction on the exportation of guns. Very few States reported no restriction or prohibition of any kind;

(d) Most responding States permitted the ownership of firearms, including handguns, for the purposes of hunting, target shooting, collection and protection of person or property. Thirty- nine States imposed a licensing or similar requirement for the purchase of all long guns and handguns;

(e) Levels of firearm ownership varied greatly among countries. The rate of individual firearm ownership in each country ranged from less than 1 to more than 120 per 1,000 persons. The number of firearms ranged from less than 1 to more than 400 per 1,000 persons;

(f) It was generally accepted by the States in the survey that illegal firearms, whether stolen, illegally imported, or manufactured, were utilized by criminals or organized criminal groups. Many States reported some level of illegal importation of firearms. Fewer States reported a problem with the illegal exportation of firearms. Most responding States did not have substantial evidence of the illegal manufacture of firearms;

(g) States reported that a wide range of information sources were used to trace the origins of recovered firearms but that inadequacies in databases and inter-agency cooperation posed significant obstacles;

(h) In virtually all countries, police were trained in the identification of firearms and in the use of firearm-tracing technology;

(i) States generally reported severe maximum penalties, including lengthy terms of imprisonment for offenders convicted of crimes involving the smuggling of and illegal dealings in firearms.

At the international level, the findings included the following:

(a) Efforts to regulate the importation and exportation of firearms, in most countries, were governed by trade and customs laws and agreements; not by specific agreements relating to firearms;

(b) Certain regional agreements were identified by responding States, but few States had entered into formal agreements on the regulation of firearms with other States, particularly at the bilateral level;

(c) Judging from the descriptive case study information provided by the respondents, there seemed to be a need for enhanced international cooperation in the investigation and prosecution of offences involving the unlawful importation or exportation of firearms, particularly where the firearms had been transported across one or more countries between the time of their manufacture and their ultimate recovery by law enforcement officers.

In regard to the survey instrument, it was concluded that if the survey initiative was to be ongoing, then the survey instrument should be streamlined, both by reducing the overall number of questions and by pre- coding several open-ended questions.

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