Latin America Has Fewer Guns, But More Crime

by | Nov 21, 2018 | Headline News | 58 comments

Do you LOVE America?


    This article was originally published by Ryan McMaken at the Mises Institute

    The news in Latin America this year has brought two reminders that Latin America’s stringent gun controls have not stemmed the growing homicide problem in many parts of the region.

    The first is that homicides reached new highs in Mexico this year , reaching record levels not seen since the country began keeping records twenty years ago.

    Secondly, violent crime became a significant issue in this year’s presidential race, with president-elect Jair Bolsonaro running on a platform of fighting crime, pledging to “use the army” if need be.

    In both cases, crime continues to soar in spite of the fact that that both Brazil and Mexico are anything but what we might call “laissez-faire” when it comes to gun ownership. Indeed, both employ stringent gun control regimes — as do most of Latin America’s states.

    These fact have long presented a problem for advocates of gun control, of course, since their arguments often rely on the idea that reducing gun ownership will bring lower crime rates.

    Fewer Guns — More Crime?

    Looking at gun laws, of course, only tell us some of the story when it comes to the prevalence of civilian firearms in a society. One must also take a look at illicitly-owned firearms, and the total number of firearms to be found overall.

    In this years’ update to the Small Arms Survey, published by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, we find that civilian gun prevalence — legal and illegal — is not especially widespread in Latin America, even by European standards.


    Source: Small Arms Survey.

    For example, according to the Survey’s estimates, there are only 12.9 civilian guns per 100 people in Mexico. Brazil’s total is even smaller, at 8.3 per 100 people.

    Compare these numbers to any number of other countries with significantly lower homicide rates, whether Canada, Austria, Switzerland, or even Germany. (We need not even bring the US into it, which, of course, has a much, much higher gun prevalence, with relatively low homicide rates by global standards.) No Latin American country, with the exception of relatively-low-crime Uruguay, matches these totals in terms of gun prevalance.


    Source: Small Arms SurveyWorld Bank.

    Looking at these numbers, we simply don’t see a cause and effect relationship between gun prevalence and a lack of homicide. Clearly, there are other factors at work, and homicides can’t actually be explained in convenient claims of “fewer guns, less crime.”


    Source: World Bank.

    This reality in Latin America, however, is steadfastly ignored. As I’ve explained in past, the enduring high crime in Latin America, in spite of numerous gun controls, has often been explained away by use of the soft bigotry of low expectations. We’re told that Latin Americans can’t be expected to respond to a legal environment the same way a a more “civilized” person in Europe might. Thus, we should just expect Latin Americans to behave like barbarians and engage in large amounts of homicide regardless of gun laws. Once the Latin Americans can be ignored, we can then more easily claim the US has higher homicide rates than the Europeans because — and only because — of the US’s liberal gun laws. All other factors are ignored. It then become a self-evident “fact,” that all industrialized or “developed” countries with stringent gun control laws have low crime — assuming we ignore Russia, of course.

    Myths of Latin American Gun Ownership

    This position, convenient it might be for gun-control advocates, fails to satisfy anyone who regards Latin Americans as full-fledged human beings. After all, with the exception of Venezuela and some areas of Central America, Latin America is not a region of failed states or civil war. This is a region mostly at peace, and one that shares much in common — in terms of history, immigration, and ethnic diversity — with the United States.

    Some gun-control advocates have attempted to get around this problem by claiming, without evidence, that Latin America really has large amounts of guns. For instance, in a bizarre 2015 article for Salon, the author claimed that Honduras, with its remarkably high homicide rate, is a pro-gun libertarian dystopia where anarchists have “load[ed] the country up with guns” and allowed people to obtain weapons freely. The result, we’re told, is non-stop violence.

    This notion that Honduras is a place where enormous numbers of people carry guns, however, is pure fiction. According to the Small Arms Survey, the total number of guns per person in Honduras, at 14.1 per 100 people, is only a small fraction of what it is in the United States, and less than half what it is in Canada.

    Similarly, some have tried to argue that Mexico’s homicide woes can be explained away by Mexico’s proximity to the United States. We’re told Texas is exporting huge numbers of illegal guns to Mexico.

    Yet, research by Stratfor and the Small Arms Survey have shown that illegal guns in Mexico are usually brought into the black market by Mexican police and military personnel — from native stockpiles. They’re not imported by American gun runners.

    Moreover, the Small Arms Survey includes illicit weapons, as well. And even counting these weapons, the total number of firearms in Mexico is very small compared to the US.

    Although we hear relentlessly in this country that more guns lead to more crime, the experience of Latin America certainly doesn’t lend much credence to the idea. Advocates for gun control try to ignore Latin America and focus strictly on Europe, where they claim that low crime rates are synonymous with low levels of gun ownership. (Even this claim must exclude Russia, Switzerland, Ukraine, and the Baltics to be true.) By expanding our analysis to the Americas, however, we quickly find these claims are anything but self-evident.


    Ryan McMaken (@ryanmcmaken) is a senior editor at the Mises Institute. Send him your article submissions for Mises Wire and The Austrian, but read article guidelines first. Ryan has degrees in economics and political science from the University of Colorado, and was the economist for the Colorado Division of Housing from 2009 to 2014. He is the author of Commie Cowboys: The Bourgeoisie and the Nation-State in the Western Genre.


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      1. Yeah but our criminals are badder mofos. We need to export ours.

      2. If you want to seemwhat is going on in south america go to death addict website sign up as member watch all the killing guns knife machete

      3. It’s the people and their cultures, not the weapons they own or don’t own that count.

      4. Ever been to Juarez, Mexico? The police seem nonexistent there.
        As soon as you walk across that bridge, there is a feeling of lawlessness. Don’t go alone.

      5. Crime rates have nothing to do with guns and everything to do with demographics.

        • Sweden and Germany are currently in the process of receiving this education.

          • A survey is an unreliable instrument for determining the true (legal + illegal) prevalence of gun ownership. What rational person is going to admit to even legal gun ownership to some random caller—especially in a milieu that stigmatizes gun ownership?

            Too, even if the survey numbers were accurate, the “guns per 100 people” measure fails as a snapshot of the true (legal + illegal) distribution of gun ownership.

            Consider a hypothetical: If 999 Mexicans have 0 guns and 1 (rich and connected) Mexican has 100 guns, you have already achieved a “10 guns per 100 people” factoid (sounds like a fact) that hints maybe 10% of Mexicans have guns, when the reality would be that only the occasional rich and well-connected Mexican patron or cartel capo has a bunch of guns.

            The author is, of course, on “the right side” of the “gun” control issue, so I hope he continues in his work.

          • And until recently, so were the Austrians. Their new guy makes it seem like they at least are waking the hell up. Seriously, they can build a Glock for me here in America, but they’re not allowed to own one themselves?












        • Agree: there are lots of knives out there but only one race group does the majority of knife attacks.

          Crime is directly connected to race and IQ. Most coos will tell you most crime is done by dumb people. And some races have more dumb people than others. When was the last time two Chinese guys mugged somebody on the subway? Like, never.

          Latin America’s problem is it has too many blacks and Latinos and not enough Europeans. Parts of Brazil are German and have the least crime and booming economies.

          • Frank Thoughts

            The smart people who do steal do it with a computer key board, the dummies use violence, the middle of the road largely obey the malum in se laws.

            • Smart people use violence- they hire it- military and regulatory agencies. They just don’t get caught with a gun in their hand.

              Chooze are the most violent of all- arranging wars and revolutions, establishing Communism. . .

        • Infidel, you hit that one right out of the park. In my area there are more blacks arrested for all types of crimes more than any other group of people. The DOJ statistics tell a really interesting story. The problem is PEOPLE NOT GUNS.

        • Any decent Patriotic Man in America has at least a dozen guns. Just make sure they are all lubed and in great working condition and you have several thousand rounds per gun. Make sure you have your concealed weapons permit, from several states that reciprocate. Know what the laws are of each state you travel.

          “This is my rifle. There are many others like it, but this one is mine. My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without me, my rifle is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy, who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will. Before God I swear this creed: my rifle and myself are defenders of my country, we are the masters of our enemy, we are the saviors of my life. So be it, until there is no enemy, but peace. Amen.”

      6. I read a couple of decades ago from a good source that the DEA confiscated some H&K MP5s in a dope raid in Florida and had the ATF trace where they came from. Interestingly, and what should be very embarrassingly, the guns were given to a South American police agency, by the DEA to……drum roll please…….fight the narcotics traffickers.

        Anyone else remember reading this?

        • Kevin2, I’ve never heard of that one before. But it’s very interesting and no surprise considering the nature of the DEA.

          • The Deplorable Renegade

            Actually it’s more reflective of the corruption that the huge amount of narcotics money has done to Central and South American governments and their agencies. I believe that the DEA had good intent as these things are embarrassing to return back to the US in criminal hands.

            • Then why do they keep doing it?

              • The CIA is the biggest drug trafficker in the world. FACT!

                So this phony drug war is cutting onto the profits of organic dealers to benefit the CIA’s monopoly and profit for their black budgets to violate more international laws covertly.

      7. All this tells me is that latinos are a buncha violent mofos

        • Nail,
          Having lived and worked in a “Barrio”, across the river from Compton CA I can say Latinos can be violent, but they are infinitely better than Blacks. Just my opinion.
          Another thing as K2 points out about MP5’s, In Seattle if I wanted an Uzi I’d talk to a Samoan gang, you only guess where they get them from. It is all about money, nationality doesn’t matter.

          • rellik

            A friend who has a class 3 FFL and is a former USMC JAG officer and assistant prosecutor (Civilian) told me an interesting story almost three decades ago. Yes time flies. Having a Class 3 FFL made him privy to sales. One sale was of 50 Thompson Sub Machine Guns from a North NJ city, maybe Jersey City, Newark or Hoboken. He arrived early to inspect the guns. To his surprise there were only 14 guns there when 50 were advertised. He asked the Sargent and the reply was, “You know, a Captain retires”. Obviously these guns just walked out of inventory by officers over the years. At this time NJ was pushing its, “assault gun ban” ban. None of this about the missing machine guns ever made the news.

            • Forgot to mention it was not military but a Police Department

            • Kevin2, I also used to hear stories like that about certain weapons “growing legs and walking away” out of LE and even some military arsenals back in the 80s and even into the 90s. Once again that shows the true nature of cops. Such stories NEVER get reported in the MSM.

              • This same guy when he was a JAG officer at 29 Palms was involved in a case where a civilian base employee was caught in a sting selling Thompson Sub Machine Guns off base for $400. It turns out that they were in crates in a warehouse and not under lock and key. Furthermore they didn’t even know that they were there having obviously never been entered in inventory. I assume the rapid demobilization post WWII led to someone being overwhelmed and saying, “Just put them over there” where they sat crated for about 40 years so so next to blankets and C rations.

                • Kevin2, you’re probably right about the rapid demobilization being the cause. I wouldn’t mind having one of those old Thompsons. They were used to some extent in Vietnam. At that time they were called “obsolete”. LOL! Tell that to whatever VC or NVA who were on the receiving end of those .45ACP rounds.

                  • Kevin2, BTW, the British demobilized so rapidly at the end of the war in Europe they were throwing crates of weapons, ammunition, and other military gear into the sea.

                    • The US threw plenty into the ocean including significant amounts of “Duce And A Half” trucks. They didn’t want them to diminish consumer demand as those retiring GIs needed jobs. The USSR saved even captured weapons. A friend has a 98K with a big trigger guard that his neighbors kid brought back from Vietnam in 1964. Guaranteed it made it there via being captured on the Russian front by the USSR and sent to Vietnam before the Soviets wanted their fingerprints on arming the VC or Viet Minh.

                  • “Tell that to whatever VC or NVA who were on the receiving end of those .45ACP rounds.”

                    No doubt that US GI’s and Marines came across them from both ARVN inventory and those obtained from the Chinese Communist in VC use. The M1A1 was robust and simplistic therefore likely to still run a century later. If I was in a tank, SP gun or truck having a “Tommy” minus butt stock in arms reach would be comforting like a 1911 on steroids.

          • Rellik, I’ve also had better interactions with Latinos than blacks. They ARE better people than blacks.

            • Latinos for the most part have a strong work and family ethic. The men like two play around but they take care of their kids; Their strongly Roman Catholic and traditional. They remind me of the first batch of Italians that came to the US in many respects.

          • Agree: and the women are WAY hotter. We have Latinos in my family and they are hard-working, very family focused, and they can cook – just love good food.

            There is an amazing level of sacrifice Latinos have for family. They will put up with a lot to help their families. And they are also Christian so they celebrate all the same festivals.

      8. There is a new book out on the effects of genetics in humans. It confirms the scientific evidence that race is real and that the difference between races are profound.


        • The differences are profound.


          • You don’t need a book to tell you that. It is profoundly obvious to anyone.

        • B from CA, there was a book that was published back in the 90s about race and IQ there was very controversial when it first came out. I remember the libturds and especially groups like the NAACP raising holy hell about it. But I can’t remember the name of it or the names of the 2 authors that wrote it. And the worst part of that is I have a copy of it buried in a box at home! Ain’t that rich?

          • The Bell Curve

          • Renegade
            The book you reference is “The Bell Curve”,1994, by Murray & Herrnstein. And you are correct that it created a huge public reaction…for two reasons. It stated that the White race, on average, is several points higher in IQ than the Black race…and that the Asian/Chinese race is several points higher than the White race. Sorry about that, but this is what you get (and deserve) when one group insists that they are so much better than another group.


        h ttps://

        “The study also found that the average IQ for African Americans was lower than those for Latino, White, Asian, and Jewish Americans”

        “The question that still remains is whether the cause of group differences in average IQ is purely social, economic, and cultural or whether genetic factors are also involved.”

        For whatever reason they figured out that Asians were the smartest and Africans had the fastest reaction times (better at athletics).

        Read the study. It’s not racism, its realism.

      10. I meant to say THAT was, not THERE was. Someone help me on the title of that book?

        • NOW I remember it! The Bell Curve: Intelligence And Class Structure In American Life by Charles Murray and Richard J. Herrnstein. Very powerful reading. Then you’ll understand what all the libturd hellraising was about.

      11. This fact has been beat to death. Why don’t we DEMAND ALL our rights back? The Republicans’ NDAA destroyed our Bill of Right? Not one shot was fired. That was 7-1/2 years ago. Does anyone actually know the purpose of the 2nd Amendment?

        • Never mind “demand”. Just flat out exercise them. If you live in a place where doing so can bring you trouble, then just pretend compliance with their bullshit laws, then go right on doing the right and good and Constitutional thing.

          Or, as Andrew Jackson once said about the Supreme Court “They’ve made their ruling. Now let’s see them enforce it.”

      12. RogerD, the 2nd Amendment helps guarantee the rest of the Bill Of Rights. As far as I’m concerned the Bill Of Rights still exists. Anything that says otherwise is null and void.

        • Dep Ren:

          My sentiments exactly.

          And, I don’t remember the name of my book. Lol

          Thanks. I should read both.


        • I think a lot of the Spirit of American ‘guidelines for living’ (AKA laws) are embedded in the Declaration of Independence.

          The Very Simple Words –

          Life Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness.

          Any federal law or organization which contradicts those 7 words should be disbanded.

      13. Guys off course, I should have known that the NDAA does not apply to you. The tyrannical Surveillance State and Police State have been built across America but somehow missed you.

        “We can ignore reality, but we cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.” – Ayn Rand

        • “We can ignore reality, but we cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.” – Ayn Rand

          That’s in my top 5 favorite quotes of all time.

      14. In Iraq, every Iraqi citizen was allowed to keep one firearm per household. The vast majority were military selective fire AK47s. However when terrorists attacked citizens it was always carbombs or suicide vests. Patrolling the streets of Baghdad for one year, I never heard of a drive by shooting in a neighborhood or a school shooting. All schools had a security guard at the gated entrance with an AK. Kidnapping for ransom was big but just plain shooting people up in neighborhoods was never an issue. Just goes to show you violent behavior develops its own culture in each area and it is people that are violent not objects.

      15. Ever notice how all the no talent assclowns who say all cops are trigger happy racist assholes are also THE VERY SAME IDIOTS saying that

        everyone should have their guns taken away


        Da fuq?

        • “Two things are infinite
          1: The universe.
          2: Human stupidity.


      16. if you want to really see what goes on in south america mexico and rest of world makes usa look like nothing when you see people being hacked up alive with machetes cut up stabbed with knives burned alive pretty woman being shot and killed and having limbs cut off while alive bodys being dismembered heads being severed cut off with knives axes chainsaw people being beat to death and lots of other nasty stuff go to site called Death Addict sign up which is free and then watch what goes on around world even with out gun makes it much more brutal don,t forget still lots of guns around in south america many are made there to these people are animals that live there and we want to impoert these savages into usa are we nuts

      17. Higher crime in Latin America? Why? You know why.

      18. I’d like to know why my comments from Thursdays and Fridays don’t post until Monday.

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