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Murder Rate in the United States and Germany

The Independent asks in light of last week's shooting in the Rockies in Colorado and in the Amish county of Pennsylvania: "Can America ever be weaned off its love affair with guns?" and mentions these shocking statistics:
In the US, there are roughly 17,000 murders a year, of which about 15,000 are committed with firearms. By contrast, Britain, Australia and Canada combined see fewer than 350 gun-related murders each year. And it's not just about murder. The non-gun-related suicide rate in the US is consistent with the rest of the developed world. Factor in firearms, and the rate is suddenly twice as high as the rest of the developed world.
Children are affected particularly hard. An American youth is murdered with a firearm every four and a half hours on average. And an American youth commits suicide with a firearm every eight hours. It's worth remembering that many of the most spectacular mass murders of recent years were really suicides, with the perpetrators choosing to take a few other people with them while they were at it.
Read the entire article at The Independent and the discussion at The Moderate Voice.
Among Germany's 82 million citizens there have been 794 murders in 2005.  That's two more murders than in 2004. These numbers are from "the German FBI" Bundeskriminalamt (pdf). DW World reports about
"Safer Streets, Growing Fear",
Between 1993 and 2003, the number of murders fell by 40.8 percent and domestic burglaries fell by 45.7 percent. All in all, crime in general dropped by 2.6 percent during the 10-year period and today, Germany is considered one of the industrialized world's safer countries.
But among the German populace, the mental picture of the nation's crime rate is markedly different. In a survey conducted in 2004 by the Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony (KFN), a representative sample of 2,000 people were asked about their perceptions of crime trends in the previous 10 years. In almost all categories of crime, respondents grossly overestimated crime rates in Germany.
US statistics from Associated Press:
Murders, robberies and aggravated assaults in the United States increased last year, spurring an overall rise in violent crime for the first time since 2001, according to FBI data. Murders rose 4.8 percent, meaning there were more than 16,900 victims in 2005. That would be the most since 1998 and the largest percentage increase in 15 years.
Murders jumped from 272 to 334 in Houston, a 23 percent spike; from 330 to 377 in Philadelphia, a 14 percent rise; and from 131 to 144 in Las Vegas, a 10 percent increase. Despite the national numbers, Detroit, Los Angeles and New York were among several large cities that saw the number of murders drop. The overall increase in violent crime was modest, 2.5 percent, which equates to more than 1.4 million crimes. Nevertheless, that was the largest percentage increase since 1991.
Okay, let's do the math: Murders per 1.000.000 inhabitants in the US: 56,3. And in Germany: 9,7. That means the murder rate is nearly six times higher in the US than in Germany.

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Zyme on :

Looks like the people here in Germany have a greater need for public safety. It also looks like police is moving away from "understanding" foreigners all the time. When I was younger, they often received less attention than ordinary germans do. But nowadays whenever I move around by train or plane, they seem to attract police constantly. Maybe it has to do with the Terror-Angst. I also donīt think there have always been this many surveillance cameras around on public places - or am I mistaken?

RZ on :

Sorry, but I call bs. Why is murder or suicide by firearm worse than murder or suicide by other means (most murders in the USA are committed with firearms, most murders in Europe are committed with knives and blunt objects)? Why do you sometimes use absolute numbers and sometimes use per capita rates (US population is increasing)? And why didn't you write about the fact that crime rates have been falling for over a decade in the USA?

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Thanks for your commet, RZ! Everybody knows that the US has a population of around 300 mio. I wrote that Germany has 82. There have been 16900 murders in the US and 794 in Germany in 2005 -- both with and without firearms. You don't need to do any math to do see the huge difference. Okay, let's do the math anyway. Murder per 1.000.000 inhabitants: In the US: 56,3 In Germany: 9,7 [b]That means the murder rate is nearly six times higher in the US than in Germany.[/b] I [b]don't[/b] find the differentiation between murder by firearms or by other means not that important, because apparently it is as easy to get a gun in Canada as it is in the US, as the Independent article (recommended in the post) explains. However for other people that differentiation is important, because they think that there would be less murder and less suicide, if Americans did not have such an easy access to guns. Easy compared to gun laws in other countries. "And why didn't you write about the fact that crime rates have been falling for over a decade in the USA?" Because the crime rate [b]isn't [/b]falling anymore, but has increased again. The articles I recommend explain that there crime rates have been falling for many years until last year. During that time the murder rate did not fall much compared to the murder rate in other countries, thus that's not noteworthy. The US murder rate would need to drop tremendously to come close to Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, Italy, etc.

tcobb on :

If easy access to guns is the main factor driving the murder rate in the US it would seem to follow that Canada should have a comparable rate, but it does not, as you point out. Places like Switzerland and Israel, where many adults are required to keep guns in their homes, should have higher murder rates, but they do not. It is also the case that areas which have the most restrictive gun laws in the US also tend to have very high crime rates. So what exactly is the point you're trying to make?

JW-Atlantic Review on :

My only point is: The murder rate in the US is [b]much[/b] higher than in Europe. I leave it to others to point out potential reasons and to comment on whether the high murder rate is a problem or not. What do you think?

JW-Atlantic Review on :

@ Tcobb While easy access to guns probably isn't the main reason for the high murder rate (see Israel, Switzerland, Canada), it still could be true that much more restrictive gun laws would reduce the murder rate, because the US is different form Israel, Switzerland, Canda. While those three countries can afford easy access to guns. The US can't. Could that be? You write "It is also the case that areas which have the most restrictive gun laws in the US also tend to have very high crime rates." Okay, so you would need more restrictive laws in all US counties and all US states, i.e. a national law, right? Or is the black market too big? And it is impossible to destroy that black market. (Other countries don't have such trouble with black markets, it seems, not even those close to Eastern Europe in the revolutionary 90s, where black markets were full with everything). Or would people just go to Canada to get guns, if the US had a restrictive national gun law? Why is Europe (and Japan, Israel, South Korea, Canada etc) doing much better than the US in terms of murder rate? Are there big difference in the murder rate within the US? I know murder rates are higher in (inner)cities than on the countryside, but what about difference between the states? Is New England better than Texas? If so, why? Wisconsin better than Pennyslvania?

Tcobb on :

Anytime people are being killed there is a problem. The real question in any such situation is what can realistically be done about it. A lot of the murders in the US consist of criminals killing other criminals. A lot of the "youths" who die from guns are gang members who have reaped that which they have sowed. I don't know of any practical cure for such a problem that would not be worse than the disease, but that is the case with many problems. Sometimes there just aren't any good answers. Many more people in the US die from traffic accidents. We could stop most of these deaths by making it so that no vehicle could travel faster than 5 miles per hour. I suspect that most people in the US would consider such a solution to be totally unacceptable, even if it did mean that thousands of lives would be saved each year. And so it is with firearms. Although it is arguable as to whether the US Constitution gives the individual a right to own firearms, it is the case that many State Constitutions do give that right to their citizens. There is always a price for anything and everything. Free speech has its drawbacks, but I would not want to see it taken away because of the bad consequences. And so it is with the right to bear arms. People will and do abuse it, but I think that most Americans think that the benefits outweigh the bad.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

"I think that most Americans think that the benefits outweigh the bad." What are the benefits of such liberal gun laws? Why do they outweigh "the bad"? After all "the bad" is quite bad indeed. This is one of the mysteries for Europeans, I guess. I think most Europeans find it very difficult (or impossible) to understand, why Americans value relatively easy access to guns so much. (Easy and liberal compared to European laws)

tcobb on :

Perhaps it is just a cultural gulf, and I do think that Americans in general place a lot more faith in self-reliance than they do on collective solutions such as giving the police a monopoly on the use of force to deter criminal conduct. And yes, when it comes to defending yourself against thugs, nothing works so well as a gun. Even a small woman can turn a 250 pound would be rapist into a corpse if she has a pistol and knows how to use it. It may be a cliche, but an armed society does tend to be a polite society. In the more rural areas of the US where the rate of gun ownership tends to be high, the crime rates tend to be low, mainly because of the willingness of the local folks to deal out their own rough justice to people who attempt to victimize them.

Possum on :

It's about RIGHTS, not benefits. We don't need a mamma. The framers of our Constitution didn't want the people disarmed as they were in Europe, where only nobles had the right to bear arms and thus rule and tyrannize the peasantry. The Federalist Papers explicitly point out why the right to bear arms was put in the Constitution. Here, authority comes from the bottom up, in the consent of the governed. In Europe, rights are but priveledges, bestowed by the grace of the burocracy from the top down. As ever. No wonder you just don't get it. Our rights are the inherent rights of any being to choose for itself. We don't need a mamma government treating us like children. And why should you Europeans be so concerned about something that is none of your concern? And BTW, what "love affair with guns"? Another myth. A nasty meme.

Assistant Village Idiot on :

I have been in this discussion many times, and will say at the outset that I tend to favor the more typical American view, but not entirely. First, there is enormous regional variation in the murder rate in the US, which far overwhelms other factors such as race, concealed carry, registration, etc. The regional variation is most likely cultural, descending from its original European, especially British, settlers. The New England Puritans had a low homicide rate and the region still does, in both Canada and the US. The Middle Atlantic areas, settled by Quakers and German Pietists, has a low, but not as low rate of violent crime. The Appalachian areas, settled by Scots-English Borderers (think Glasgow football and Belfast) have always had high homicide rates. Clan social organization often leads to high violence, wherever it shows up in the world. Secondly, drug-related violence accounts for an enormous percentage of "youth" homicide. Beware statistics coming out of America which which purport to show high rates of gun deaths of children, whether intentional or accidental. 15-19 year-olds involved in the drug trade are most of this number, though the word-picture is often made to suggest there are large numbers of American 8 year-olds dying from guns. Thirdly, there is an increase in homicide in most places in the world where races brush up against each other, and America is one of the places with most racial interaction in the world. While it is difficult to measure, there is some suggestion that Americans of different races interact less violently than in other countries. We just have much, much more of said contact going on here, because we are more racially mixed. Violent crime is on the rise in the more mixed areas of Northern Europe. Fourth, mobility of population tends to increase violence. Stable, culturally continuous areas tend to have less crime. Americans are very mobile. It is likely that something in the social contract weakens when people move. This reason is of course intimately bound up with the first and third reasons. Germany's homicide rate is low, but there are French cities with higher violent crime rates than most of the US. Belgian cities are not too safe at the movement. Look to original culture of an area, plus the instability and tension of recent arrivals of different appearance, and you can usually draw out the violent crime estimates. Mix in the drug trade, and you have almost the complete picture. Obviously, an excellent solution would be for all the sensible people to have guns and the foolish or evil ones to not have them. How to effect that is hard to easily imagine. Concealed carry permits seem to help somewhat, but are not the panacea that gun-enthusiasts claim.

Timo on :

Your 1st point (the early settlers) is contradicted by your 4th point (mobility). 2nd: There is a lot of drug use in other countries as well, but without so much violence. 3rd: Britain is very racially mixed and has one of the lowest muder rates in the world. I am always surprised by the audacity of some Americans to describe Europe as soft on crime and soft on other policy matters. Clearly, American society is in bigger trouble and their social and police and judicial systems fail. America does not care about inner city youths or simply can't protect the vulnerable from murderers. Many innocents get into the cross-fires of gang violence. Americans are so proud of their dynamic economy and they are proud of having the "most professional and effective police force." Nevertheless America is soft on violent crime. They love their right to bear arms more than your fellow citizens. It is the duty of the state to protect its citizens. That is what sovereignty means. Your state fails. Don't give me this stuff about Europeans wanting big government, while Americans are individualistic, who take care of their own affairs and don't expect the government to be the big mamma. Every poll shows that voters want their city, state and federal governments to do more to make their neighborhood safer.

Assistant Village Idiot on :

I didn't say anything about European softness, big government, etc. I might in other sections. It's a complicated issue, not easily captured in a black/white painting. There is no contradiction between 1 and 4. New England and the Canadian Maritimes were settled earliest, have always had the lowest homicide rates, and have been the most stable - people moved out, not in, and even the immigrant groups that came in tended to stay put. That has been changing since the mid 20th C, and the crime rate is slowly rising. As to the mixing, I would note that the areas of Canada, Britain, and Western Europe that have newer arrivals have higher crime rates. Toronto, Lyons, Manchester - all these have high crime rates. The more stable and homogenous villages in those countries have less. You make rather dramatic statements about our state failing, and not caring about inner-city youths, etc. I am aware that is the perception in Europe, but I am not convinced it is true. There are a host of reasons why this misperception should be common, and I don't know which applies to you and your circle of firends most. I assume that will come up in other threads where discussions of perception are more germane. For the record: I have traveled and volunteered a bit in Eastern Europe as well as Western, and have a slight ability to view Germany, GB, France, et al through those eyes. The Eastern Europeans also had misperceptions of America, some similar to your own, but they have a rather different take on them. My Romanian sons, 19 and 21, find the arguments I get into online with Western Europeans to be uproarious.

Tcobb on :

The United States is soft on violent crime? I'm glad to know that. I suppose that all this criticism about how the US has such a large percentage of its population in prison, its long sentences, and the dreaded use of capital punishment is just bogus nonsense. Which European critics are we to believe now? And if the US is indeed soft on violent crime, isn't this just another reason to support the notion that the citizens need to have the right to own firearms? After all, if the government isn't protecting them, then its really up to them to protect themselves, unless of course you want to take the position that no one should defend themselves at all, or should be punished if they do. I think that Europeans and Americans would both be better off if we stopped expecting the other to be a little mirror of our own societies. We are different. Accept it and deal with it. Criticism of America's gun laws by foreigners has about the same effect here as having Americans criticize the socialistic aspects of European democracies over there. None. As the saying goes, never try to teach a pig to sing; its a waste of your time and it just annoys the pig.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

[i]"Criticism of America's gun laws by foreigners has about the same effect here as having Americans criticize the socialistic aspects of European democracies over there. None."[/i] So true!

Ralf Goergens on :

[quote]Criticism of America's gun laws by foreigners has about the same effect here as having Americans criticize the socialistic aspects of European democracies over there. None.[/quote] How about my overwhelming gun envy? Does that have any effect besides putting a wide grin on your face?

Tcobb on :

Control yourself Ralf. Calm down. Please. Its in your own self interest. Don't make me have to summon the authorities. If you antagonize them they might feel compelled to shoot you . . . :-)

Ralf Goergens on :

[quote]Don't make me have to summon the authorities.[/quote] Snitching on me, eh? Well, around here we know how to deal with stool-pigeons.... ;)

David on :

I cannot help but feel that the high murder rate in the US is to some degree connected with the scourge of capital punishment. Executing prisoners is a barbaric practice which contributes to the degradation and general devaluation of human life in American culture. I happen to live in a state that banned capital punishment over 120 years ago; we have among the lowest murder rates in the US.

Assistant Village Idiot on :

David, I'm sure the authorites are noting your feelings as their major scientific evidence for legislation.

David on :

In a democracy the voters decide - not the "authorities". In my state - and 15 others - the voters have consistently viewed capital punishment as an immoral, barbaric practice. Every year or so some wingnut legislator tries to bring it up in a referendum, but it is soundly defeated = at the polls. So most voters "feel" the same way I do.

Don on :

My personal experience with crime has been counterintuitive. In the late 80's I lived in New Brunswick, NJ - pretty much of a pit. There were crack cocaine users in my neighborhood and when I walked out to my car in the morning I could see where the druggies had discarded their needles. Nevertheless I never witnessed any crime worse than one of my neigbors smoking a joint. I spent 2 months living in Rotterdam (actually a pleasant suburb of Rotterdam) soon after. During that priod I had a close escape from a thug wielding a switchblade - and was a witness to a gun battle. Seems like quiet, peacful Holland was anything but! Admittedly it was Rotterdam, the biggest port in Europe. But even so. It made me wonder whether there wasn't something going on below the surface here.....

Olaf Petersen on :

Death penalties, torture, boot camps, secret prisons worldwide, ten times more prisoners per capita than any other nation in the world. The lead nation, the land of the free? Two questions: 1) Which states in the USA has the lowest crime rate? 2) Which states in the USA have the best social systems? In Europe, in Germany, social systems aren't only instruments of welfare for the needy displayed with costly socialist sentimentality. They are also a means of something we call 'social peace' --- but not luxury. Dear Uncle Sam: Europe is not as rich and as powerful as you are, but we are already rich enough to afford some social security, peace in the society and peace in the neighborhood. In a cultivated, civilized society this would be self-evident, but you seem to bother more about revenge and punishment and the right to have fire-weapons. The price of freedom? 17,000 innocent citizens per year? That's less 17,000 tax-payers if you want the price in dollars.

Tcobb on :

Thanks Olaf. Tirades like yours are one reason why Americans tend to tune people like you out. Europe has done so much for America in the 20th Century: its given us Communism, Fascism, Nazism, and many dead American soldiers from World War I and World War II. It is simply impossible for me to express my gratitude for these gifts the European hunger for Utopia has bestowed upon America. I have often heard the complaint from Europeans that Americans have no "sense of history." When it comes to the 20th Century, we have a rather good grasp of history, and the associations with that history and Europe are, shall we say, unpleasant. But perhaps the ultimate question, which I think really underlies the greatest cultural chasm between Europeans and Americans is---why do you even care about how conditions are in America? What is it to you? Believe it or not, the US is actually a democracy, in which the domestic policies pretty well reflect what the majority of the people want. By contrast, most Americans don't really care what the laws are like in the UK or Germany because they don't think that it is any of their business to do so. Why do you even care?

James on :

I just cannot comprehend this jealous knee-jerk resistance to taking a stand alongside America against terror that has crept into this discussion of crime and murder rates. Honestly, when is Europe going to wake up? What is it going to take? Nuclear holocaust? As its ugly head takes yet another form, Europe seems to quickly hide behind denial, appeasement and political correctness yet again. Reminescent of Chamberlain and Hindenburg. Every month, evidence abounds of plots inside Europe and the United States by muslims who talk about moderation in public and religious hatred in private. The Qu'ran itself sanctions duplicity against the unbeliever. Thousands if not millions of muslims take to the streets calling for violence at the sight of a mild cartoon in Holland. Meanwhile, I am still waiting for the outrage about September 11th? I witnessed only dancing in the streets in some parts. Every month a new title is published documenting these assertions: http://www.amazon.com/Londonistan-Melanie-Phillips/dp/1594031444 http://www.amazon.com/Al-Qaeda-Europe-Battleground-International/dp/1591024331 http://www.amazon.com/Jihad-Incorporated-Guide-Militant-Islam/dp/1591024536 And honestly, it is far earier for these movement to take root in Europe. The populations are naturally heterogenous on the continent. If there is anything these people thrive on, it is isolation. Wake up Europe, before it is too late.

Zyme on :

Tcobb Tirades like yours are one reason why Europeans tend to tune people like you out. Just because you have entered two world wars at a time when the fighting european countries were worn down, you canīt expect to be praised. I do not complain about it - every nation has the right to catch an opportunity that comes by. But please spare us and stop telling stories about moral superiority. Better watch up that america will not miss itīs opportunities in this century. Regarding the war on terror, your country rather did not miss any opportunity to decrease itīs influence in the world and to increase resistance. I am not talking about hateful and irational terrorists here. The more threatening US-activities become to our interests, the closer Paris-Berlin-Moscow and Peking will stick together to fight US-influence.

Timo on :

Tcobb, yes, America is soft on violent crime, because the murder rate is much higher than in any other civilized country, but America surrenders to the thugs and accepts that your compatriots are murdered. That's appeasement. America's police force is underfunded. America's politicians and judges make the same decisions hoping it would change something. What's the definition of insanity? Instead of solving its crime problem, America lectures other countries around the world about being tough in the war on terrorism, changing their economic policy, reforming welfare systems, and America wanted the world to spend ressources on wars in Mess-o-patamia rather than on innercities. Stop lecturing.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

@ Timo, America is not soft on crime: CBS News reports about the ultimate punishment: "Three county inmates in the jail here lay on their bunks, not saying much. They wore pink jumpsuits and pink slippers, and one was wrapped in pink sheets. They were surrounded by pink bars and pink walls. They were not comfortable. Despite the cramped condition of the tiny jail, the inmates said sitting there was better than working outside, where they might be seen by people they know. Using pink uniforms in a pink jail is a small step to deter inmates from ever wanting to spend more time in the Mason County Jail, which might be getting too old to operate, said Sheriff Clint Low. " [url]http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/10/10/national/main2077390.shtml[/url]

Assistant Village Idiot on :

Zyme, there are actually rational people in Europe who believe the US entered the wars in order to extend its own influence and power? Or that such a goal was even 1% of our motivation? If you believe such nonsense, then obviously every other evil thing you believe about us flows from that. If you are unable to consider that a country could have other motives, that perhaps says more about yourself than it does about me. Hopefully, that is not a general inability among Germans. Olaf, you bring up too many subjects at once. As to your questions, I have answered the first one. Why ask again? Ponder the new information first. Then perhaps we can go on to discuss the others. Timo, many in America would also claim that we ignore our inner cities. When you look at the money that flows in, that is clearly not so. We don't lack for rescuing dollars there, nor for caring and concern, but we do lack for wisdom.

Anonymous on :

"Former Air America host Mike Malloy and right wing talk show host Steve Malzberg were on MSNBC yesterday to discuss the idea of teachers having guns in classrooms." http://www.crooksandliars.com/2006/10/09/teachers-with-guns-discussion-makes-you-feel-like-youre-in-school/

Anonymous on :

The German murder rate does not include voluntary manslaughter ("Totschlag"), which in the USA would often not be considered voluntary manslaughter but murder in the second degree. Exept for 2001 and 2006, US murder rate has been significantly falling since 1992: http://www.angelfire.com/rnb/y/homicide.htm#usmu

Fritz Ethridge on :

The reason that there are so many murders in the U.S. has nothing to do any laws or restrictions or the lack thereof. The reason is really simple. Piss off an American and he or she will put a cap in your ass.

Elisabetta on :

I prefer the Whit Stillman rationale more than the 'mah gatt gots to fix' analysis: "that doesn't mean Americans are more violent than other people. We're just better shots."

Curtis on :

What's the rate of illegal aliens in Germany compared to U.S.?

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