Assault and Homicide: U.S. vs. Canada

By Joseph Lawler

The pseudonymous Ironman of the Political Calculations has provided an interesting way of thinking about America’s gun laws. Canada is a lot like the U.S. in many ways, and it has stricter gun laws than we do. Comparing violence in the U.S. to that in Canada might be instructive about gun control.

In order to make that comparison, Ironman controls for the demographic differences between the two countries. The U.S. has large black and Hispanic populations, while Canada doesn’t. Of course, any number of other controls could be used, but the point is to get a rough comparison between the U.S. population most demographically similar to that of Canada. The results are interesting. Here is the rate of nonfatal, nonsexual assaults in the U.S. vs. Canada:

And here’s the same comparison, for demographically similar populations:

Clearly the rate of nonfatal, nonsexual assaults is much higher in Canada than it is in the U.S. But where it gets interesting is in the comparison of murders between the two countries – which Political Calculations has also made:

Ironman’s takeaway:

Put another way, Canadians are victimized by assault a little over twice as often as the Americans most demographically similar to them are, with 337 more nonfatal, nonsexual assaults per 100,000 inhabitants occurring in Canada.

By contrast, we already found that this same population experiences just one less homicide per 100,000 than do their demographic peers in the U.S., which might be attributed to Canada's more restrictive gun control laws.

At first glance, this comparison raises the question of whether there’s a tradeoff between laws that prevent homicides and laws that lower broader violence. If so, it’s worth considering whether the U.S. is on the right side of that tradeoff, and if our laws should be more or less like Canada’s.

Joseph Lawler is editor of RealClearPolicy. He can be reached by email or on twitter.

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