Homicide by Firearm

Breakdown of Countries by Gun Laws


December 6, 1989: École Polytechnique Massacre

Fourteen women were killed on the campus of the University of Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal. According to the resulting law, all firearms are required to be registered, whereas before this shooting, only “restricted” firearms had to be registered with the government.

United Kingdom

August 19, 1987: Hungerford Massacre

Sixteen people were killed in Hungerford, Berkshire, in 1987. The Firearms (Amendment) Act of 1988 was passed in the wake of this shooting, broadening the number and types of firearms declared illegal by the United Kingdom. These banned firearms included semi-automatic and smooth-bore shotguns.

March 13, 1996: Dunblane Massacre

Sixteen schoolchildren and a teacher were shot and killed in a primary school in Dunblane, Scotland, in 1996. As a result, the Firearms (Amendment) Act of 1997 and the Firearms (Amendment) Act of 1997 (No. 2) were passed. These laws have led to a near complete ban on handguns, except for those used for athletic events and historical exploits, and air guns.

New Zealand

November 13, 1990: Aramoana Massacre

Thirteen people were killed by someone wielding a semi-automatic rifle. In the aftermath, the Arms Act of 1983 was reviewed. The laws that came from this review created a new class for military-style guns and new restrictions on these guns. Also, there was no more lifetime issuance of gun licenses; these licenses now need to be reviewed every ten years.   Furthermore, restrictions have been placed on mail order firearms.


April 28, 1996: Port Arthur Massacre

Thirty-five people were killed and many injured in a shooting at a tourist resort in Tasmania. The resulting legislation, the National Agreement on Fire Arms, included a requirement for the registration of all firearms, a general ban on all semi-automatic rifles and shotguns, and strict storage rules. A “legitimate reason” was required for the purchase of firearms, and safety training, as well as a twenty-eight-day waiting period, were made mandatory. In conjunction with these tighter restrictions, the Australian government bought back over 700,000 guns, totaling about 20 percent of all guns in the country. This buyback and legislative action has resulted in a 59 percent drop in homicides.

There were thirteen mass shootings, including the Port Arthur Massacre, in Australia in the eighteen years leading up to the Port Arthur Massacre. Since the passage of the National Agreement on Fire Arms, there have been none.


November 7, 2007: Jokela School Shooting

September 23, 2008: Kauhajoki School Shooting

Finland has a long and storied gun culture—there were approximately 45 guns for every 100 people as of 2007. Even here, laws were tightened after two tragic events.

There were two school shootings in Finland in 2007 and 2008. The first took place at Jokela High School, where eight people were killed. The second took place at the Kauhajoki School of Hospitality, where ten people were killed. There has been a review and overhaul of gun laws in Finland since these tragedies. People under twenty years of age are no longer allowed to be in possession of handguns; before these shootings, the legal age was fifteen. In addition, the age for hunting guns has been raised to eighteen.


April 26, 2002: Erfurt School Massacre

November 20, 2006: Emsdetten School Shooting

At the Erfurt School Massacre, sixteen people were killed in the gymnasium, while the Emsdetten School shooting saw many wounded but did not result in any fatalities, other than of the gunman. Both of these incidences led to a tightening of German gun laws. The Erfurt Massacre raised the legal age to own a gun from eighteen to twenty-one, and from sixteen to eighteen for hunting. In 2008, Germany banned Tasers, dummy guns, and other guns after the Emsdetten shooting.

Not long after this legislation was passed, there was yet another school massacre. On March 11, 2009, fifteen people, plus the gunman, died over a period of several hours. The shooter’s father was indicted and convicted of negligent homicide, as he failed to properly lock up his firearm that his son used to go on this rampage. This shooting has provided the impetus for a nationwide gun registry that is in the process of being completed.


Zug Massacre: Sept 27, 2001

Switzerland has the third most guns, per capita, in the world, behind the United States and Yemen. Many pro-gun advocates in the United States will point to Switzerland’s low homicide rate and declare that the United States should follow their model. This does not clearly paint the story of gun control in Switzerland, though.

Because Switzerland has a very small standing army, they require most eligible males to serve in a militia. Each male is expected to train with the military upon turning age eighteen for three months and to remain ready for service until age thirty.

Switzerland witnessed a massacre of its own on September 27, 2001, when Friedrich Leibacher went on a killing spree in the parliament in the city of Zug. Fourteen people died and many more injured before the gunman killed himself.

As a result of the following debate on the prevalence of firearms in Switzerland, 2011 saw a significant referendum on gun control, calling for guns and ammunition to be stored at national military depots. The referendum failed, with 56.3 percent of voters against, while 43.7 percent were in favor. Although the referendum failed, the debate is likely to continue in the future, representing a new openness regarding gun control that has not been seen among the Swiss for quite some time.


In Turkey, automatic guns and handguns are illegal, as are most semi-automatic firearms. All firearms must be registered with the state. There is a one process for getting a permit, and then another one for buying a firearm. Firearm owners must renew their gun license every five years. You must be twenty-one years of age to own a gun, and must pass a battery of background and physical exams.


Japan has the most stringent gun laws in the developed world. To possess a gun, you must first attend an all-day class and pass a written exam, pass a test at a shooting range, and then pass mental, drug, and background exams—all of which are “filed with the police.” The police are required to search your home every three years, to ensure your gun and ammunition are stored properly and separately. At this time, you have to re-pass the class and written exam. All these policies are well documented in an Atlantic column by Max Fischer.

Japan seems to have reaped rewards for these tight laws: only two people died from firearms in 2006 twenty-two in 2007, and eleven in 2008. As of 2004, Japan had the second lowest homicide rate in the world, behind only Luxembourg.