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"The Five" co-host Eric Bolling tied stricter gun laws and more gun violence in other nations on Aug. 27. (Screenshot) "The Five" co-host Eric Bolling tied stricter gun laws and more gun violence in other nations on Aug. 27. (Screenshot)

"The Five" co-host Eric Bolling tied stricter gun laws and more gun violence in other nations on Aug. 27. (Screenshot)

Jon Greenberg
By Jon Greenberg September 1, 2015

Fox News' Eric Bolling misstates tie between gun laws and gun deaths internationally

The murders of two television journalists in Virginia renewed the debate about gun control in America. On Fox News’ The Five, panelist Juan Williams said he feels more threatened by the number of guns on the street in New York and Washington, D.C., than he does by the militant Muslim group ISIS.

Show co-host Eric Bolling shot back, "In countries where there are higher, more strict gun laws, there is more gun violence."

We decided to see if Bolling had his facts straight.

We couldn’t find proof that he did, and neither Bolling nor Fox News got back to us to show otherwise.

There is no hard and fast yardstick to compare gun laws across nations, but there are some rough indicators. The United States is unusual in framing gun ownership as a right, so at the most basic legal level, most countries begin from a more restrictive starting point.

There’s helpful data on gun regulation in other countries from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland.

According to the group’s 2011 small arms survey, personal protection is not a sufficient reason to own a weapon in Australia and the United Kingdom. In fact, in the United Kingdom, the 1996 slayings of 16 school children in Scotland led to a ban on private handguns. Japan also bans handguns.

Canada requires all would-be gun owners to get a license to own a gun. They must pass a background check and complete a safety course. If they then go and buy a weapon, they must register it. They can buy a gun for personal protection, but they must show that they face an imminent threat and that police protection is not good enough.

In a previous fact-check, a researcher at the study center in Geneva told us that Australia, Japan, Singapore, South Africa and the United Kingdom have some of the strictest gun regulations.

Comparing gun violence

The studies we found measured gun violence in terms of the rate of firearm-related homicides. By that standard, America ranks worst among every country of comparable economic status.

David Hemenway at Harvard’s School of Public Health has looked at gun deaths across nations.

"If we look at high-income countries, the weakest gun control laws are in the United States, and we have by far the most gun violence," Hemenway said. "At the other extreme are the U.K. and Japan, which have the strongest gun laws, and they have among the lowest levels of gun violence."

The World Bank provides a list of high-income countries. Based on data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and reporting by the Guardian, America does top the list for the rate of murder by gun fire with a rate of 2.97 deaths per 100,000. Chile comes next, but Chile is not on the list of wealthy nations with strict gun laws. (The full list is here.)

In the wealthy group with strict laws, the data undercut Bolling’s claim.

Featured Fact-check


Homicide by firearm rate per 100,000 population

United States






United Kingdom




Source: UNODC, Guardian

For the countries that have tougher gun laws but lower wealth than the United States, South Africa has a higher rate of gun violence, 17.03 deaths per 100,000, and Singapore has a lower rate, .02 deaths per 100,000.

Our ruling

Bolling said that countries with tougher gun laws have more gun violence.  The data show that among countries more like America economically, nations with stricter regulation have much lower rates of gun-related homicides. South Africa has tougher laws but is much poorer, and it is the only exception. Bolling described a pattern that does not exist.

We rate this claim False.

Our Sources

Fox News, The Five, Aug. 27, 2015

Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Small arms survey 2011: Chapter 9, 2011

Council on Foreign Relations, U.S. Gun Policy: Global Comparisons, June 24, 2015

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Statistics

Guardian, Gun homicides and gun ownership listed by country, July 22, 2012

Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Injury Control Research Center - Homicide

Journal of Trauma, Firearm availability and homicide rates across 26 high income countries, Aug. 9, 2000

World Bank, High Income Countries: OECD, 2014

PolitiFact Texas, Ted Cruz says jurisdictions with strictest gun laws have highest rates of crime and murder, Feb. 1, 2013

Email interview, David Hemenway, professor of health policy, Harvard School of Public Health, Sept. 1, 2015


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More by Jon Greenberg

Fox News' Eric Bolling misstates tie between gun laws and gun deaths internationally

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