Of wealthy nations, the USA is most violent

The problem persists: The murder rate in the USA rose by 8.6% from 2015 to 2016.

How can America be so rich, and yet so ridden with violence? Sunday night’s horror in Las Vegas was the country’s 227th mass shooting of the year. Murder and violent crime are up. Why?

After the horror, the soul-searching and the familiar ritual of mourning. Flags are lowered and thoughts and prayers tweeted.

But as Steve Israel writes in The New York Times: “The most asked question is, “Will anything change?” The simple answer is no. The more vital question is, “Why not?””

Last year 17,250 people were murdered in the United States. That is an average of one every 31 minutes.

Yes, it used to be worse. The murder rate has halved since 1980. But one stark fact remains: the USA is the most violent rich country in the world. By a long way.

An American is 12 times more likely to be murdered than a Japanese person.

The wider world struggles to understand why the USA, the leader of the free world, is so rife with violence.

After almost every shooting, public opinion on gun laws barely shifts.

But in the UK, when 16 children were shot at a school in Dunblane, Scotland in 1996, two new laws were passed, greatly restricting private gun ownership.

Seven weeks later, in Australia, a man opened fire in a café, killing 35. The country’s prime minister, John Howard, gave the order to confiscate roughly 650,000 privately held guns. Murders have since plummeted.

Could the same thing happen in America?

Deadly addiction

“Eventually there will be a tipping point,” say some. Polls show that the majority of Americans support individual policies to control guns. All the data shows that fewer guns results in less gun crime. Eventually the country will put the two together. Change is possible.

“Wishful thinking,” reply others. Guns are to Americans what wine is to the French: it is part of the country’s DNA in a way that non-Americans will never fully understand. If change does not come after dozens of schoolchildren or scores of concert-goers are massacred, it never will.

You Decide

  1. Will America ever end its love affair with guns?


  1. Design a memorial for the victims of Friday’s shooting. It can take any form you choose.

Some People Say...

“Violence in America cannot be solved by legislation.”

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The Second Amendment of the US Constitution enshrines the right to bear arms, meaning that gun ownership is sacred to millions of Americans. However, the country now has a murder rate higher than any rich country in the world.
What do we not know?
Whether the example set by states like California with strict gun laws will ever spread to more rural, conservative states in America.

Word Watch

Murder rate
For 2015 the UN recorded the world’s highest murder rate per 100,000 inhabitants as El Salvador (in Central America) 108.64. By way of comparison, the US figure was 4.88, the UK 0.92.
British tennis player Andy Murray attended Dunblane Primary School and was present at the massacre.
Dozens of schoolchildren
In December 2012 Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Five days later, President Obama announced that he would make gun control a "central issue" of his second term in office.

PDF Download

Please click on "Print view" at the top of the page to see a print friendly version of the article.