An American is 12 times more likely to be murdered by a firearm than an Indian, according to an IndiaSpend analysis of data collated by GunPolicy, a database managed by the University of Sydney and funded by the United Nations.
The US experienced its worst-ever mass shooting at a gay night club in Orlando, Florida, leading to 49 deaths, renewing a debate on easy gun ownership in the USA.
India has a firearm homicide rate of 0.3 (per 100,000 population) against the US’ 3.4. A firearm is used in no more than 10 percent of homicides in India, against 60 percent in the US.
India’s homicide rate is comparable to countries that are far richer, such as Finland, France and Netherlands. The bulk of gun homicides–6.7 of 10 cases–are reported from India’s two most populous states, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, which are together home to nearly 400 million people. It also appears clear that India’s strict gun-ownership laws help: more than eight of 10 Indian gun homicides are from unlicensed arms.
The world’s highest gun-homicide rate of 66.6 percent–222 times as high as India’s–is claimed by the South American country of Honduras, which has half the population of Delhi and is as large as Telangana.
Japan, South Korea, Luxembourg and Hong Kong reported almost zero rates of gun homicide.
The data further reveal that six of the top 10 countries reporting the highest firearm-driven homicide rates are in the Americas–North as well as South.
Brazil topped the list (95 percent) in terms of proportion of homicides committed with a firearm, followed by Venezuela (90 percent) and Honduras (83 percent).
Of the world’s 50 most violent cities, 41 are in Latin America, including 21 in Brazil, according to this 2015 report by Mexico Citizens Council for Public Security, an NGO. Venezuela’s capital Caracas had the highest murder rate in the world last year and was ranked as the most violent city.
85% of Firearm Homicides in India are From Unlicensed Arms
As many as 3,655 people were murdered with guns in India in 2014, of which 3,115 (85 percent) were killed by unlicensed arms, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
Obtaining a gun licence is far more difficult in India than in the United States, but illegal smuggling of guns is rampant in India, especially in states sharing borders with other countries, such as Bihar, as this April 2015 report in Firstpost detailed.
“You don’t have to buy with a licence because guns are so easily available from illegal sources,” Binalakshmi Nepram, secretary general of the Control Arms Foundation of India, told the Hindustan Times.
We feel saddened about what happened in America, but we are also aware that a similar situation can happen in India.
UP, Bihar Account for 67% of all Firearm-Related Murders in India
As many as 2,443 people were killed by firearms in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar: 1,510 and 933, respectively, accounting for 67 percent of total killings (3,655) by arms.
UP is India’s hub for illegal arms, and 24,583 firearms were confiscated in UP in 2014, accounting for 44 percent of all arms so taken into police custody in India; 62 percent of these were unlicensed, improvised and crude country-made fire arms, IndiaSpend reported in October 2015.
- The data on country-wise homicide rates have been collated by GunPolicy; data from different years are included.
- We have taken the most recent data for each country (but not older than 2008) and omitted some countries, which would have been in the top 10 except that their data were more than 10 years old.
- Data on homicide rates may vary depending upon the year, but the trends largely remain the same.
- The data include only murders committed by a firearm, not suicides and other unintentional deaths.
(Saha is a freelance journalist based in New Delhi.)