Ten Miles Square


January 23, 2013 1:08 PM Why Does DC Have a Gun Death Rate Like Brazil’s?

By Daniel Luzer

Last month, in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting, I argued that while permissive gun laws and mental health were contributing factors in American gun violence, the real cause of this problem probably had a lot more to do with the country’s inequitable distribution of wealth.

Yesterday, interestingly enough, Richard Florida over at The Atlantic provided this map of American gun violence, comparing the gun murders in American cities to nations around the world:


As Florida puts it, “the sad reality is that many American cities have rates of gun homicides comparable to the some of the most violent nations in the world.” Yes, and also the most economically stratified nations in the world.

Some American cities with the highest firearm death rates are Washington, D.C. (with a gun death rate comparable to Brazil), New Orleans (Honduras), Atlanta (South Africa), and Miami (Columbia).

Guess what else those cities have in common?

They’re among the American urban areas with the widest gap between rich and poor residents.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer


  • Daniel Buck on January 25, 2013 9:53 AM:

    Really cool map, but what does it mean? Correlation is not causation. One might as well correlate milk consumption, Nikes purchases, or DVD sales with gun violence.

    A better question to look into is why did Chicago's rate jump & New York's sink? Why is Buffalo's rate almost three times that of Boston? You might be on to something, but what you've got so far is not it. Dan

  • Charlie Kehler on January 25, 2013 12:18 PM:

    When I worry about a plan to travel with my wife to a Latin American country, say Guatemala, which has much more homicides than in our small town int he Northeast, I can put it into perspective by saying that it's similar (in threat of personal danger) to visiting friends in Baltimore. We like Baltimore, have visited before. In both visits, I would follow advice of locals scrupulously about where not to go, and when.

  • Richard W. Crews on January 25, 2013 8:53 PM:

    I disagree, Daniel Buck (above); while your simple statement is true, you have to use it coprrectly, and you didn't. Go ahead and correlate to milk - see what you get. I bet milk consumption doesn't rise and fall with anything but perhaps age densities. Same with Nikes. Or even what's on the DVD.
    But it does correlate to income disparity.

  • Donald C. Kosloff on January 26, 2013 1:23 AM:

    So the wealth disparity in San Jose is much less than it is in Minneapolis? Buncombe.

  • David Pittelli on January 27, 2013 12:26 AM:

    Is the author being disingenuous, or has it really escaped him that his economic measure is a stand in for race in America?

  • mike conley on January 28, 2013 1:53 AM:

    See the graphs in this 10-minute talk. It confirms the substance of this article:


  • Daniel Buck on January 28, 2013 11:05 AM:

    Daniel Luzer's post riffs of Richard Florida's Atlantic essay, "Gun Violence in U.S. Cities Compared to the Deadliest Nations in the World," here, http://www.theatlanticcities.com/politics/2013/01/gun-violence-us-cities-compared-deadliest-nations-world/4412/

    Florida's key finding: "The pattern is staggering. A number of U.S. cities have gun homicide rates in line with the most deadly nations in the world." This in & of itself is irrelevant. In fact, what is the pattern? So what if Chile & Portland, NYC & Argentina have similar murder rates? What's the point?

    Second, he's comparing cities with countries, concentrated apples with dispersed oranges. What's the point? He does not compare high murder rate US cities, say, Miami, with high murder rate foreign cities, say, Cali, perhaps those foreign cities have vertiginously high murder rates. Readers would be scratching their heads even more.

    Florida's first Atlantic post on the subject, "A Growing Divide in Urban Gun Violence," here, http://www.theatlanticcities.com/neighborhoods/2013/01/growing-divide-urban-gun-violence/4328/ , is more interesting, in that he's focusing only US cities and at least making a reasonable attempt at figuring out why some US cities have higher murder rates than others. He does not, however, consider why some cities, NYC & DC, for example, have seen plummeting murder rates, while others, like Chicago, have seen rates go up dramatically.

    Of interest, the US murder rate overall is rather low compared with the rest of the world, and we only have 4 cities on the top 50 most murderous in the world, none in the top 20. More than 80% of the top 50 are in the Caribbean and Latin America. Figure that one out.

  • emjayay on January 28, 2013 11:07 PM:

    Well, one obvious thing in general about the Caribbean and Latin America is that the Spanish conquered those areas a few centuries ago and killed most of the people there, stole all the wealth, and totally subjugated the rest of the people while establishing themselves as the exclusive wealthy ruling class while imposing their religion on them as well. As really bad as the English and French conquerers were in the US and Canada, they really didn't compare.

  • Daniel Buck on January 29, 2013 8:43 AM:

    Once again, correlation is not causation. Anyway, murder rates in the former British colonies in the Caribbean & Latin America are also high. Dan