(FiveThirtyEight) – “We as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries,” President Obama said earlier today, in reaction to the killing of nine people at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, on Wednesday. The details of the case, including the motivations of the suspect, Dylann Roof, are still unfolding. (We encourage you to read coverage broadly, including from our colleagues at ABC News.) But I wanted to add just a little bit of context to Obama’s remarks — how the U.S. compares to other countries overall, and how that comparison obscures a wide racial divide: Black Americans are far more likely to be homicide victims than white Americans.
We’re looking for good data on the incidence of mass shootings in different countries. There doesn’t appear to be all that much of it. But mass shootings represent a tiny fraction of homicides overall. And thanks to recent efforts by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which published data on homicide rates for almost every country, we can compare the overall homicide death rate in the U.S. to those elsewhere.
According to the CDC’s WONDER database, 5.2 out of every 100,000 Americans were homicide victims, on average, from 2010 to 2012. That’s not especially high by global standards; the median country had 4.7 homicide deaths per 100,000 persons over the same period, according to the UNODC data. The highest homicide rate in the world was in Honduras, with 87.9 homicide deaths per 100,000 persons.