Coulter: “If you compare white populations, we have the same murder rate as Belgium”

“If you compare white populations, we have the same murder rate as Belgium” – Ann Coulter.

Media Matters spotted Ann Coulter expressing this particular nugget of the pseudo-scientific racism for which Coulter is known. But they didn’t provide a link to figures to disprove it. So I thought I would track them down and the result is rather surprising.

In a nutshell: Coulter is right, about Belgium — and only Belgium — but wrong about the rest of western Europe, which has a lot lower murder rate than even our “white” murder rate (see figures below).  So if Ann Coulter wants to play the race-baiting game, perhaps she can explain to us why white Americans are so much more murderous than western Europeans, who are also mostly white.  Hint: It’s their guns.

The only DoJ study on homicide by race that I can find is from 2005. Figures for the homicide rate in Belgium (and the rest of the world) are rather easier to come by. Guess what, when you do the math, the figures add up.

belgium fries food

Belgium frites via Shutterstock

Or to be precise, the figures add up if you happen to choose the murder rate in Belgium in 2002 when there were 318 murders there, a big jump on the 215 in 2000 and 228 in 2003. Belgium is a small country and so an extra hundred or so murders a year adds a whole percentage point to the murder rate. The average murder rate in Belgium was 2.2 per 100,000 between 2000 and 2010 and 3.1 in 2002. The US murder rate over the same period was 5.5, more than twice the rate in Belgium.

There is a strong race element in US homicides, which the DoJ report shows. Between 2000 and 2005 the average number of homicides per year committed by whites and blacks was 8,318 and 9,513, respectively. African-Americans were also much more likely to be the victim of a homicide.

Where Ann Coulter sees only race, I see race, poverty and the drug trade as potential explanations for this difference.

There is quite definitely a ‘demographic’ element to violent crime, but that isn’t enough to explain the difference between the US murder rate and the rate in Belgium (or Europe in general). The ‘whites only’ murder rate in the US is still 2.6 per 100,000, which is why Ann Coulter had to find a small country like Belgium to give the freakishly high figure she needed.

Had Ann Coulter looked at other (western) European countries, besides Belgium – the countries most like the US – she would have found a much lower overall murder rate per 100,000.  For example (and these are rough back-of-the-envelope averages over the same time period):

US ‘whites only’ murder rate: 2.6
Denamark 1.0
Ireland 1.2
Norway 0.8
Sweden 0.9
Greece 1.4
Italy 1.4
Spain 1.2
Austria 0.8
France 1.7
Germany 1.2
Switzerland 1.0

Now you know why Ann Coulter picked Belgium.  Even the US’ ‘whites only’ murder rate is two to three times the murder rate in western Europe.  So not only does Coulter’s weird comparison leave us with a big ‘so what?’, but her comparison on its face is wrong because she — and here’s a surprise — skewed the facts to her favor.

There is another better explanation for the difference between the overall murder rate in the US and Belgium: Guns.

67% of murders in the US (2003-2010) were committed using a firearm. That gives a non-firearms murder rate of 1.8 per 100,000, which is only slightly higher than the rate in the UK (1.5), which has strong gun control laws and a negligible firearm murder rate (0.1). (Belgium only reported figures for firearms murders in one year, which means it is most likely an outlier).

Looking through the UN statistics, countries with a high percentage of murders committed by firearms tend to have a low number of murders overall, and to be are awash in arms, like former members of the Yugoslav federation that underwent a number of recent wars.

Possibly the most remarkable figures in the table are those for the Solomon Islands. Despite the recent civil war, there were no homicides by firearm for the years figures are available (2004-2009). The Solomon Islands has my kind of gun control: Guns are banned absolutely and completely, with the sole exception of single shot rifles.

Ann Coulter’s claim is merely the last gasp of the gun-nut strategy of talking about anything other than guns. They have tried video games, lack of prayer-in-school, and gun free zones in schools. Having seen those fail, they wheel out Ann Coulter to beat the race drum, as only she can.

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