International correlations between gun ownership and rates of homicide and suicide

CMAJ. 1993 May 15;148(10):1721-5.


Objective: To examine international correlations between reported rates of household gun ownership and rates of homicide and suicide with a gun.

Design: Survey.

Population: People who responded to a telephone survey conducted by the 1989 International Crime Survey in 11 European countries, Australia, Canada and the United States.

Results: Positive correlations were obtained between the rates of household gun ownership and the national rates of homicide and suicide as well as the proportions of homicides and suicides committed with a gun. There was no negative correlation between the rates of ownership and the rates of homicide and suicide committed by other means; this indicated that the other means were not used to "compensate" for the absence of guns in countries with a lower rate of gun ownership.

Conclusion: Larger studies are needed to examine more closely possible confounding factors such as the national tendency toward violent solutions, and more information on the type and availability of guns will be helpful in future studies. Nevertheless, the correlations detected in this study suggest that the presence of a gun in the home increases the likelihood of homicide or suicide.

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Europe
  • Firearms / statistics & numerical data*
  • Homicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States