Earlier today, Wolf Blitzer of CNN had on Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN’s show Fareed Zakaria GPS. Blitzer asked Zakaria to explain to the bumpkin Americans how the rest of the world views us, with our crazy guns and our shootings. In the middle of his explanation, Zakaria made the following facially insane (and demonstrably incorrect) assertion:
Wolf Blitzer: What kind of message does that send around the world, because you do a lot of traveling out there, it reinforces this impression of what? [he asked, pretty irrelevantly.]
Fareed Zakaria: [reading from Obama’s teleprompter, surreptitiously installed in the CNN studios] Look, for some of this, for this particular case, there is a terrorism angle that you’ve been exploring, but in general the stories of gun violence really do startle, alarm, um, the rest of the world in a way that’s difficult to completely explain. It’s more than anything else – the rest of the world looks at this as the one element of America that they find truly baffling. Because, you know, there are other elements, the religious, the other industrialized countries, but that they understand because they used to be more religious themselves, there are other countries that are more religious. With guns, the United States is essentially alone in the world. There is no other country that has anything approaching the violence we do. The only country that comes close is Yemen, which is essentially a war zone. So, they look at this and they really can’t understand it, um, and they don’t understand how we put up with it.
Wolf Blitzer: [Trying to stop Fareed Zakaria from alienating every single possible CNN watcher in America]: But in this case, as you correctly pointed out, [Farook], the shooter, who’s now dead, together with his wife Tashvin Malik, they apparently were radicalized if you will, we don’t know exactly how, we don’t know by whom, they apparently had some kind of international contacts if you will with suspected terror sources out there, that may diminish this notion that people are just, you know, running wild here in the United States, with guns or whatever.
Fareed Zakaria [With some fingers showing in his mouth from where Hillary stuck his hand through the back of Zakaria’s head and decided to use him as a puppet] Well, you’re exactly right. This one may be an unusual case but as you point out, Wolf, it may be mixed motives, as has been the case in the past. I think Paul mentioned that as well. Uh, what, in each of these cases there are different motives. This one, there does seem a terror angle. The abortion one [he blithely assumed], I don’t know how you would characterize it, some people call it domestic terrorism. There are purely mental health – what they all have in common is the extraordinary ease with which people can obtain these extraordinarily destructive weapons. Weapons that you could fire hundreds of rounds, thousands of rounds of ammunition. That sets America apart. So people may have said, “Well, look at France, despite having tough gun control laws, it wasn’t able to avoid a terrorism attack. No, they did get, there was one terrorism attack that happened in Paris, but the levels of violence on any given month in any given year is 1/20th that of the United States.
WB: [Vaguely remembering that there was probably more than one violent attack in Paris’s history] Well, that was terrorism attacks, that, there were terrorists, at Charlie Hebdo magazine, that was a terror attack as well…
FZ: [Resorting to the Donald Trump debate tactic of loudly yelling insane things knowing that there are idiots who will believe anything if you say it confidently enough] – And if you ad it all up, European countries, roughly speaking, have 1/20th to 1/25th the amount of violence that we have.
“Wow,” you might be thinking to yourself. “Holy crap! Things really are bad here! Let’s take everyone’s guns!”
There’s of course a major problem with this claim – it’s absolute BS. I mean, it’s not even close to being correct. There is literally no country in Europe for which Zakaria’s claim is correct, much less is it true of “most European countries” as he claims.
Now, most European countries have far less population than the United States does, and so the United States often has far, far more gross crime. For instance, the United States has, on average, 143 times more homicides a year than Sweden. However, per one million residents, the United States has 4 times more homicides a year than Sweden. However, when viewed in terms of crime rate, which is to say, crime per 1,000 persons, then generally speaking the following two truths bear out:
- The United States has between 3-5 times more homicides than most European countries; and
- Overall, most European countries have between 2-5 times more overall crime than the United States.
Overall, the tradeoff (statistically speaking) works out to between 20-30 murders per million for between 10,000 and 80,000 total crimes per thousand.
For instance, there’s been some very hot debate over whether gun-free UK is more or less violent than the United States. But overall, UK follows the same pattern as the rest of Europe. The UK has roughly 3 times as many crimes per 1,000 people as the USA, but has 1/4th the number of murders per 1,000 people. This is not meaningfully different from other European countries with vastly different gun regimes. France, mentioned specifically by Zakaria, has almost twice as much total crime per 1,000 but about 1/4th the murders per 1,000. Sweden, as mentioned above, has 1/4th the number of murders per 1,000 people, but has over 3 times the number of total crimes per 1,000.
Iceland is about the most eerily peaceful place in all of Europe, and the United States has more than 13 times the number of murders per million, but Iceland has more than 5 times the total crime of the United States. Some European countries do have marginally lower overall crime than the United States like Spain and Greece.
However, no country has either an overall crime rate or murder rate (or even rate of murder by firearms specifically) that the United States has. Iceland (mentioned above) has basically the lowest murders per million rate in the world, and it is only 13 times less than the United States (Iceland, by the way, has the highest per capita total rate in the whole world, by almost double their nearest competitor, which is Sweden). Next lowest in Europe is Norway, which is 7 times less than the United States.
Overall, there are indeed a number of countries that have roughly 1/20th or 1/25th of the total crime of the United States – however, none are the sorts of places that are either Western European or who inspire your confidence in their record keeping abilities, and/or are totalitarian hellholes where these statistics are either pure propaganda or are reflective of the populace’s terror of the state: Azerbijan, India, Albania, Yemen (as Zakaria noted, one of the world’s worst hell zones at present), Phillipines, Burma, Nepal. The vast majority of people who live in those countries, I promise, are not watching the BBC and thinking to themselves, “Jeez, I’m sure glad I don’t live in America must be bizarre where all that violence is.”
Overall I prefer CNN’s delivery of actual news, but any time there is a story that is in any way gun related, they turn into worse than MSNBC, and this is just the latest instance.