This article is from the can.talk.guns FAQ, by Skeeter Abell-Smith email@example.com with numerous contributions by others.
The higher murder rate in the USA is not caused by citizens owning
firearms. If a prohibition could somehow eliminate all firearms, and,
therefore, all firearm-related homicides, without _any_ weapon
substitution, the US murder rate would still be roughly _double_ the
Canadian murder rate. If a USA without firearms would have many more
murders per person than a Canada with firearms, there must be many other
factors at work. (If the firearms in the USA cause its higher murder
rate, then the above example must show that firearms make Canada safer.
Obviously the answer cannot really be so simple.)
One must also consider that the number of firearms per person in Canada
and the USA is similar, and that the laws in the USA vary greatly from
state to state, with the states having fewer restrictions on
law-abiding citizens also most often having lower murder rates.
The number of firearms is a symptom, not a cause. If firearms caused
murder, then Switzerland, Israel and Norway would have murder rates
similar to the US, and places like Ireland, Scotland, Mexico, Jamaica,
Bermuda, Bahamas and Sri Lanka would have low rates.
One needs only to look at WHY the firearms are owned. Canada is more
rural and therefore each firearm owning household (roughly 26%) has a
variety of firearms (at least 3) for different uses. In the US, firearm
owning households (about 50%) are more likely to have only one or two
because they own them for self-defence and not hunting, predator
This further indicates that while fewer Canadian households have a
firearm, those that do, have more. This confirms most government
estimates of 15 to 20 million firearms in Canada, while in the US, there
are about 200 million (giving both countries similar per capita rates of
firearm ownership). If the rates of firearm ownership are similar in
countries with drastically different murder rates, then it's probably
not the firearms that are the problem.
Even within the US, there is no correlation between firearm ownership
and murder rates. After the LA riots, there was a huge increase in
sales. The following year, sales slumped because the market was
saturated, yet the murder rates continued to _fall_. The US murder rate
peaked in 1992 and has been decreasing. It dropped 8% from 1994 to
1995. Even as ownership increases in the US, the murder (and accident)
rates decrease. Allowing citizens to possess and acquire firearms
doesn't seem to be the problem.
If one ignores Washington DC and the US cities that are larger than
Canadian cities, the murder rates in the US are not much higher than
Canadian homicide rates. Also, roughly 14 states have murder rates
similar to or below the Canadian average homicide rate. Additionaly, if
one compares the states next to Canada to their neighbouring provinces,
the states more often have lower murder rates. [StatCan, the USDoJ and
the FBI Uniform Crime Reports]
comparison of Canada and the US: Province / State Homicide rate/100,000 ---------------- --------- B.C / Washington 3.7 / 5.0 Alberta / Montana 3.6 / 2.9 Saskatchewan / North Dakota 3.2 / 1.9 Manitoba / Minnesota 2.6 / 1.9 Ontario / Michigan w/o detroit / w/detroit 2.4 / 4.1 / 9.9 Quebec / NY w/o NYC / NY w/ NYC 2.4 / 3.7 / 13.2 Quebec / New Hampshire 2.4 / 1.6 New Brunswick / Maine 1.5 / 1.7 Territories / Alaska 17.8 / 7.5 [taken from: Brandon S. Centerwall, "Homicide and the prevalence of handguns: Canada and the United States, 1976 to 1980," _American Journal of Epidemiology_, 134 (11), pp 1245-60, Dec 1, 1991.]