Statistics show gun ownership at record levels in the U.S., but firearm homicides declining.
More than 270,000,000 firearms are in civilian hands in the United States, but homicides by firearms fell to just over 9,000 in statistics released for the latest year, the lowest level since 1981.
Still, the percentage of people killed by firearms in the U.S. is nearly the highest in the developed world, at approximately 3 victims per 100,000 population. In much of the 1980's and 1990's the rate was in the 6 to 7 range, or higher.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime found the firearm ownership rate in America at more than 88 guns per 100 people. The second highest rate in the developed world was in Switzerland, at 47 firearms per 100 residents.
Switzerland's firearm homicide rate was about one-fourth of that in the United States.
Australia and Great Britain, where gun ownership is a fraction of that in the U.S., had firearm homicide rates one-twentieth and one-fortieth of that of the U.S., respectively.
At least four countries recorded more firearm homicides than the U.S., including Mexico and Brazil, and more than two dozen countries had higher percentages of firearm homicides.
Most of those countries are in Central and South America, plagued by the drug trade and violent cartels, in parts of Africa, and in some of the countries that comprised the former Soveit Union. In Russia, the rate was four times higher than in the U.S., despite tight controls on private gun ownership.