Wholly Misleading Antiquated Statistics Abuse: Number Killed by Handguns

There are several issues wrong with this meme.

First, the figures are probably out of date, considering they include a country that has not existed for the last quarter century.

Second, the figures aren’t normalized on a per-capita basis. The US has a much higher population than the other countries, so even if everything else was equal the number of people killed by handguns would have been higher. The effect would still be there without this statistics abuse, but it would be smaller:

Country Killed by handguns Population in millions Killed by handgun per million
Japan 48 127.3  0.377
Great Britain 8 64.1  0.125
Switzerland 34 8.1  4.198
Canada 52 35.2  1.477
Israel 58 8.1  7.16
Sweden 21 9.6  2.188
United States 10,728 318.9  33.65

So the difference between the US and Switzerland, for example, is less than a factor of ten instead of the factor of 300 that the meme shows.

Third, even if the figures were up to date and presented per-capita, it would still be a half-truth and therefore wholly misleading. The meme doesn’t state it, but the obvious interpretation is that the killings by handgun are bad things that wouldn’t have happened in the absence of those handguns.

But a certain percent of killings are justifiable homicide, for example self defense. The people who are most inclined by nature to be violent are precisely those that don’t need guns to be violent. Richard Rapist can overpower Veronica Victim, and Robert Robber can overpower Elmer Elderly. But in both cases, it would only go into the statistic if Veronica and Elmer shot Richard and Robert with a handgun. In the US, that is a lot more likely to happen.

Note: I wanted to say that most handgun deaths are suicides, but it looks like the meme already took care of that, and restricted itself to homicides. The ~10,000 a year value is only for homicides. Suicides are about twice that, and as tragic as they are, it is hard to blame the gun when in other countries people suffocate or poison themselves.

h/t Philip Docfather Wohlrab


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