BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Global Health and Gun Violence



Why is gun violence a global health problem?

Globally, there are over 900 million firearms with most of them belonging to civilians (the public); a number which is approximately 253 million or 29% greater than passenger vehicles. About 8 million guns and 10 to15 billion rounds of bullets are manufactured yearly. The number of bullets manufactured in a year is double the world’s population, meaning that there are more than enough bullets to shoot- and potentially kill, everybody in the world. As many as 1000 people die daily from firearm or gun-related homicide, much more are injured. According to the United Nations (UN), deaths due to guns and firearms surpass that of all other weapons combined. As a matter of fact, some years record more deaths from gun related violence than there were in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. Financially, the legal international trade in firearms and bullets are in the excess of $7.1 billion dollars annually. Apart from the public health trauma and emotional pain of losing so many lives, the economic costs of gun related violence in the United States is $229 billion annually including hospital, court and prison costs.

In the year 2000, the then UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, described the magnitude of the menace and death due to gun violence in these words:

“The death toll from small arms dwarfs that of all other weapons systems — and in most years greatly exceeds the toll of the atomic bombs that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In terms of the carnage they cause, small arms, indeed, could well be described as ‘weapons of mass destruction’.” — Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, March 2000”

The facts above point to the fact that gun violence is a costly global health problem that needs to be controlled. This problem is particularly prevalent for so many reasons, but one clearly identified in the 2011 Global Study on Homicide is that it is much more common in countries with low standards of human development, high income inequality and weak regulations and law regarding the sale and use of firearms. In the United States of America for example, an average  of 88 per 100 people own guns, which is the highest gun ownership rate in the world. The second and third countries, Yemen and Switzerland, have a gun ownership rate of 54.8 per 100 people and 45.5 per 100 people respectively. However, it’s not always the country where people have the most guns that have the worst firearm murder rates. For instance, countries such as Iraq, El Salvador and Jamaica are reported to have the highest murder rates due to guns and firearms, even though some reporters believe that the US has the highest.

In more equitable societies with socio-economic stability, there seems to be less occurrences of homicide and gun related violence. Gun control laws and policies are essential to regulate the manufacture, sale, transfer, possession, modification, or use of guns by the public within a country. People against gun control argue that it is a great means of self defense that plays an integral role in one’s protection, others in favor contend that while guns play an important role in protection, they have also caused much destruction. At such, rigorous background checks and investigations are recommendations that should precede the purchase and use of firearms.

References available on request.

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