Contrary to popular belief, the homicide rate in the United States is not one of the highest in the world. Based on 2018 data, the US has a homicide rate of 4.957 people per 100,000 residents. This is considerably lower than countries like El Salvador and Jamacia with 2018 homicide rates of 52.019 and 43.852, respectively. However, the numbers paint a different picture when the United States is compared to other developed nations like Canada and Japan.
Canada's homicide rate was just 1.756 in 2018 and Japan's was only 0.263. Clearly, gun ownership is a contributing factor to the homicide rate, but not the only determinant. Very few Japanese people own guns, so that is one reason why the homicide rate is so low. However, Canada has a fairly high gun ownership rate, and its homicide rates are also low. Canada has about 30 guns per 100 people while the US has at least 85 guns per 100 people, and one estimate even put that number as high as 120 per 100 people. The difference between Canada and the United States is that Canada has much stricter gun control laws.
Here are the states with the highest homicide rates in 2018:
Mississippi had a homicide rate of 13.4 deaths per 100,000 people in 2018, which was higher than any other state in the country. 382 people were killed in the state in 2018. There many reasons why Mississippi's homicide rate is so high. Poverty tends to lead to high crime rates, and Mississippi has the highest poverty rate in the United States at 19.7%. However, it might not be that simple.
Mississippi actually has a lower violent crime rate than many other southern states. The state had a violent crime rate of 234.4 per 100,000 people in 2018, which was well below the national average of 380.6. The real reason why Mississippi has such a high homicide rate is likely due to certain areas where there is a high concentration of crime. Brookhaven is Mississippi's most dangerous city with a homicide rate of 57.73 in 2018. That's a 611.84% increase over 2017. Brookhaven also had a very high violent crime rate of 767 violent crimes per 100,000 people in 2018. Dangerous cities like Brookhaven make Mississippi look more dangerous than it is.
Firearm ownership in Mississippi is 42.80%, which is the 13th highest in the US, and the state Mississippi had a firearm death rate of 22.9 per 100,000 in 2018, which is also the highest in the country. High firearm usage may also be a contributing factor to Mississippi's high homicide rate.
Like Mississipi, Louisiana has a high poverty rate and a high rate of gun ownership. However, the most striking crime statistic in Louisiana has to be the imprisonment rate. Louisiana has had the highest imprisonment rate in the United States since 2013 and was only briefly surpassed by Oklahoma during this timeframe. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Louisiana had an incarceration rate of 695 people per 100,000 residents in 2018. Louisiana's gun ownership rate is 44.5% and the state has a poverty rate of 18.6%. The state's most dangerous city in the state is Opelousas, which had a homicide rate of 55.34 deaths per 100,000 people in 2018.
Alabama comes in at number three with a homicide rate of 12.2. Firearm usage and drug usage are also very high in the state. They have been hit particularly hard by the opioid crisis, and the poverty level is quite high, the seventh highest in the country at 16.8%. Both of these factors affect Alabama's homicide rate. Gun ownership in the state is 48.9%, and there were 21.8 firearms-related deaths in the state per 100,000 residents in 2018. Anniston and Bessemer are two of the most dangerous cities in the state, and according to FBI statistics from 2017 they are the two most dangerous cities in the country. Anniston had 3,434.30 violent crimes per 100,000 people and Bessemer had 2,985.58 violent crimes per 100,000 people. The statistics have changed a bit since then, however, seeing as Anniston's homicide rate in 2018 was 32.42 deaths per 100,000 people, which was a 49.16% decline from 2017.
Missouri's homicide rate in 2018 was 11.4, which was the fourth-highest in the United States that year. The high murder rate in the state can be attributed to St. Louis, which is considered to be the most dangerous major city in the United States. In 2018, St. Louis had a homicide rate of 60.9 deaths per 100,000 people. Baltimore, Maryland, which had the second-highest homicide rate among major cities in 2018, trailed St. Louis with a homicide rate of 51 deaths per 100,000 people. Gun ownership in the state is actually quite low at just 27.10%. This can be contributed to the fact that most homicides in the state happen in St. Louis with unregistered weapons.
Homicide Rate on the Decline
The homicide rate in the US has actually been declining for many years. In 1991, the homicide rate in the US was as high as 9.705 deaths per 100,000 people. By 2001, the homicide rate had shrunk dramatically to 6.687. It reached a low point in 2014 at 4.445, rising again in 2014-2015 before going back on the decline. Still, the homicide rate is showing a mostly steady decline, which contradicts the narrative that can often be heard in American politics about violent crime on the rise. But as was mentioned in the beginning, the US still has a ways to go to reach the level of other wealthy, developed countries.