The Americas' extreme gun problem, in one chart

After two mass shootings in the span of five days — including one Wednesday in San Bernardino, California — America’s frequent rash of gun violence is again in the spotlight.

And the data backs up the impression that this happens more often in the US than in other countries.

The Americas have by far the worst gun problem in the world, with the weapons used in 66% of homicides. That compares to 13% to 28% in other regions, according to a 2013 United Nations report.

The region, which includes North America, South America, and the Caribbean islands, also has the world’s highest murder rate, at 16.3 per 100,000 people. That compares to a global average of 6.2 per 100,000, according to the report.

Here’s a chart of homicide mechanism by region:

To be fair, war and conflict-related killings are not included in the UN chart because they are “outside the realm of intentional homicide,” according to the UN report. Had these deaths been included, that would likely change the share of firearm homicides in some regions.

Still, even Europe is starkly different from the Americas when it comes to gun homicides. The largest share of homicides in Europe come from the “other” category. And at 3 murders per 100,000 people, the region is safer overall than the Americas.

Unsurprisingly, Europe also has a much lower gun-ownership rate than the US. Many European countries have fewer than 40 guns per 100 people, whereas the US has closer to 90 guns per 100 people.

Guns are used in an even greater share of murders in the US than across the Americas, at 68%:

This has a lot to do with domestic gun laws, as states with loose firearm regulations also have a higher number of gun deaths each year. The US also has far more assault deaths per capita than other industrialized nations.

South America has also become more violent in recent years. Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world, and Mexican drug cartels have worsened the violence in Central America. The UN report noted that organised crime and gangs account for 30% of homicides in the Americas.

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