No, South Africa does not have the second highest fire-related death rate

South Africa has been debate proposed revisions to primary law regulating who can own weapons in the country and how they are used.

That planned changes to the Gun Control Act would include the elimination of self-defense as a valid reason for owning a firearm.

The ensuing debate has, among other things Pro gun lobbies, Arms Control Advocates and political parties.

That meeting for the public to comment on Draft Gun Control Bill expire on August 2, 2021. Published for comment in May she had received more than 100,000 written submissions by the end of June, accordingly the Ministry of Police.

As part of the bill, a cost analysis, known as a socio-economic impact assessment, necessary. Released in May, the impact report of the draft law made a claim highlighting the problem of gun-related crimes in the country.

“An international study from 2015 found that South Africa has the second highest fire-related death rate in the world.” it said.

(Note: In February 2015, the 2015 draft law amending gun control was presented to the cabinet. The 2021 draft law and its impact report replaced this bill.)

South Africa has among the highest murder rates global accordingly the World Health Organization and the United Nations. Firearms are also the most common weapon used for murders, according to the country Police statistics 2019/20.

But is the claim of gun-related deaths in South Africa hit the bull’s eye? We checked.

Statistics from the 2013 study of US doctors

The socio-economic impact report did not provide any further details on the statistics. We asked them South African Police Services (SAPS) to clarify which 2015 study the report is referring to.

Brigadier Johannes van der Walt, Head of Operational Legal Support at SAPS, sent us a connection to an article published in Economic technology, a South African business news website, on June 22, 2015.

South Africa “had the second highest rate of gun-related deaths in the world at 9.4 deaths per 100,000 people,” the article reads, added that the country only had the 16th highest number of guns per 100 people.

The article states that the result came from a study by US medical professionals using data from 2010 to 2012 a news story who she as Dr. Sripal Bangalore and Dr. Franz Messerli from New York City.

Bangalore said to Africa Check your study was published in 2013. “All the data were before 2013, ”he said, referring us to researching“ individual data points ”.

Study ranked second in South Africa for gun deaths

According to the figures given in the study, South Africa ranks second in the world for the rate of firearm-related deaths 9.4 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. The USA took first place with 10.2 Firearm Related Fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants.

When comparing, Prices per 100,000 People are used because they take into account the number of deaths and Population sizes.

The firearm-related death study data for the country comes from the World Health Organization Europe. but the link to this database returned an error message.

That WHO European Regional Office told us that the link is “on the” European detailed mortality database (DMDB) but it doesn’t seem to be accessible ”.

We were therefore unable to determine which specific period the data comprised.

The study continues The aim was not to determine worldwide deaths from firearms. Rather, it is sought to measure the impact of gun possession and mental illness on such deaths in a country. It argued that more guns didn’t reduce crime.

‘International Study’ covers only 27 countries

Dr. Richard Matzopoulos is a senior research scientist and co-director of the South African Medical Research Council‘s Last of Disease Research Unit.

He told Africa Check that South Africa came second out of the 27 countries included in the study. But “there are many other countries that are not included”.

Matzopoulos said that although the reasons were not clear, it could be “because this information is not from the Small Arms Surveythat seems to be the source ”.

Bangalore and Messerlis to learn said the countries involved were those not involved in civil war with available data on gun possession from 2007 Small Arms Survey.

That opinion poll is an annual Project of Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. It seeks to be “The main source of public information on all aspects of small arms and armed violence”.

Other data rank South Africa 34th in 2015

That’s why we started looking for other data. the WHO mentioned the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) as a source for comparable data.

The IHME is an independent global health research center at the University of Washington in the USA. It is globale disease burden study has Cause of death data NSR. 204 countries and territories.

Amelia Apfel, an IHME spokeswoman, told Africa Check that her study encompasses three categories of firearm-related deaths: interpersonal violence, firearm self-harm and accidental firearm injury.

In 2015, South Africa was ranked 29th for interpersonal violence by firearms, 67th for firearm self-harm, and 67th for accidental firearm injury.

Global Burden of Disease 2015 – Firearm Death Numbers

Category of death from firearms

To count

Price per 100,000

Global Ranking (Rate)

Interpersonal violence (murder)




Self-harm (suicide)









Using the data For these three categories, we calculated that South Africa had a rate of 7 gun-related deaths per 100,000 population in 2015. This puts it in 34th place worldwide. The Central American country The saviour had with 81.9 per. the highest rate 100,000.

The IHME estimates the total number of deaths this year at 3,716. A count of 3,682 Gun-related deaths recorded by state morgues for 2015-16 have been announced in the South African parliament.

But that was only in four of the countries nine provinces: Gauteng, Limpopo, Western Cape and an unnamed fourth province. We were unable to obtain complete figures for the reporting year. We have asked IHME for a comment and will update this report with their response.

Second database still does not support the claim

The University of Sydney Public Health School Even collects evidence-based international data about gun violence. This is published at For 2015 your data South Africa ranks 16th out of 88 countries, with a Rate of 10.6 Deaths per 100,000.

The database showed there were 5,622 deaths in South Africa in 2015, when the information is most up to date. This was obtained from the WHO.

The saviour again in first place with a rate of 78.5 firearm-related deaths per 100,000 people.

Phillip Alpers, is an associate professor at the School of Health and founding director of He told Africa Check that the claim could only be made by “ignoring” high risk countries for which there was no publicly available data.

But even looking at “obvious countries” for which there were total weapon numbers, “the data published by Brazil, the United States, Mexico, Venezuela and Colombia show higher rates than South Africa,” Alpers said.

South Africa ranks 31st in 2019 data

The latest data we could find is from IHME for 2019. This year, South Africa was 28 for interpersonal violence by firearms, 67. to self-harm by firearms and 65 for accidental firearm injuries.

The institute estimated the total number of firearm-related deaths at 3,610, ranking 31st worldwide at a rate of 6.5 per 100,000 people.

Conclusion: Available data do not support the Ministry of Police’s claim

A official report into the socio-economic impact of proposed changes The country had the second highest rate of gun-related deaths in the world in 2015, according to the South African Guns Act.

The aforementioned “international study” took second place in South Africa, but covered the years 2010 to 2012 and not 2015 and covered only 27 countries.

More revealing and comparable data ranks South Africa 16th and 34th in 2015. The latest data we could find was for 2019 when the country was 31st out of 204 countries.

The evidence available therefore does not support the Ministry of Police’s allegation.

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