Gun murders driven by poverty and inequality, not gun availability

There is no significant link between tighter gun control laws or the availability of legal firearms on gun homicide rates, according to a world-first study. Instead, poverty is by far the bigger influence on increased gun homicides, ultimately debunking the myth that the more firearms in society somehow equates to more gun murders.

Conducted by the University of Liege in Belgium, Transnational study on the link between the possession of a firearm and the rate of homicides by firearms examined data from 52 non-conflict countries with moderate political regimes, excluding the United States. While Australia was also excluded, arguably due to our overly restrictive gun laws, the study clearly shows socio-economic issues play a much larger role in firearm homicide rates than access or gun laws.

Sadly, the study described child mortality as “one of the most important predictors in understanding the variations in the rates of homicides by firearm between countries,” with researchers imploring policy-makers to pay “greater attention to the socio-economic conditions” for future policy decisions. Child mortality rates are considered a more accurate measure of poverty as children tend to be excluded from social security systems. The study overwhelmingly found that “the higher the rate of child mortality, the higher the rate of homicides by firearm will be.”

The research further shows that the lower the income per person and the greater the wealth inequality, the higher the expected rate of homicide. A surprising result was that no clear link was found between alcohol and drug abuse and firearm homicides. This is despite proven links between alcohol and drug use and violent crime found in other research.

The study did include New Zealand as one of the 52 countries examined. New Zealand was found to rank 19th in terms of highest firearm ownership and ninth lowest in terms of firearm homicide rates. Other nations also correlated low homicide rates despite higher firearm ownership.

In terms of gun control laws, the report found that “neither the severity of legislation nor the availability… seem to have a significant link to the rate of homicides by firearm.” The report authors suggest that: “If the possession of illegal arms is really linked in a consistent way with criminality by firearms, it would be useful to concentrate efforts with regard to legislation not on purchasing restrictions or licensing, but on a strengthening of secure storage practices and action on firearms theft as possible actions to reduce violent crime.”

The SSAA has long disputed claims by anti-gun advocates who constantly perpetuate the myth that more legal firearms in society results in more gun crime. This latest report vindicates our own research into the matter.

The independent study was funded by the World Forum on Shooting Activities (WFSA), of which the SSAA is a founding member. The WFSA submitted the findings to the latest Arms Trade Treaty conference held in Geneva in September, to help guide international discussions on firearms.

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