"At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries," Barack Obama said today in response to the killings in Charleston. "It doesn't happen in other places with this kind of frequency."
And that's not only true of mass violence, but everyday homicides committed with guns, as you can see in the chart below.
On that point, he's absolutely right: when it comes to gun homicide, the U.S. stands out from the rest of the world's wealthy nations. According to homicide data collected by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and compiled by The Guardian newspaper, the U.S.'s annual gun homicide rate of 2.97 fatalities per 100,000 people is triple the rate seen in most of the world's other wealthy nations, defined in this chart as countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. It excludes Latin American countries like Mexico that have traditionally had high murder rates, often due to political instability and the drug war.
The Guardian's Simon Rogers argued in 2012 the disproportionate share of gun violence due to the prevalence of firearms in the U.S. With nearly 1 gun for every man, woman and child in the country, the U.S. has ratios that far exceeds other countries on that measure. And the social science has also suggested the association: more guns means more crime.
"Our review of the academic literature found that a broad array of evidence indicates that gun availability is a risk factor for homicide, both in the United States and across high-income countries," according to the Harvard School of Public Health. "Case-control studies, ecological time-series and cross-sectional studies indicate that in homes, cities, states and regions in the US, where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide."
But efforts to significantly limit the prevalence of guns in the U.S. have been politically doomed. Even measures that have overwhelming support -- like universal background checks, which 92 percent of gun owners support -- tend to die in Congress in the face of stiff opposition from the National Rifle Association and their congressional allies.