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Firearm Availability and Homicide Rates across 26 High-Income Countries

Hemenway, David PhD; Miller, and Matthew MD, MPH, ScD

The Journal of Trauma: Injury, Infection, and Critical Care : December 2000 - Volume 49 - Issue 6 - p 985-988
Article Titles

Background Among developed nations, the United States has the highest rate of civilian gun ownership, and the highest homicide rate. We examine whether the United States is merely an exception, or if a relationship between gun availability and homicide exists across all developed nations.

Methods Homicide rates for the early 1990s come from 26 of 27 of the highly industrialized or high-income countries with greater than 1 million population as classified by the World Bank. Two common proxies for gun availability are used, the percentage of suicides with a firearm, and the“Cook index,” the average of the percentage of suicides with a firearm and the percentage of homicides with a firearm.

Results In simple regressions (no control variables) across 26 high-income nations, there is a strong and statistically significant association between gun availability and homicide rates.

Conclusion Across developed countries, where guns are more available, there are more homicides.

From the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts.

Submitted for publication February 14, 2000.

Accepted for publication August 9, 2000.

This research was supported in part by grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Joyce Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Center on Crimes, Communities and Culture of the Open Society Institute.

Address for reprints: David Hemenway, PhD, Director, Harvard Injury Control Research Center, Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115; email:

© 2000 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.