VPC Backgrounder on Guns and France in Wake of Mass Handgun Shooting in Nanterre, France

For Release:  Thursday, March 28, 2002

Eight people were killed and 19 wounded yesterday in a mass handgun shooting in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, France. The alleged shooter in the French massacre, Richard Durn, was armed with two semi-automatic Glock handguns and a .357 Smith & Wesson revolver. According to the Associated Press, Durn had no criminal record and, until recently, had permits to legally possess the handguns. According to French authorities, Durn failed to renew his permits this past January. Durn had used the handguns for recreational shooting and had been practicing shooting for six years. After the shooting Durn committed suicide by leaping out of a fifth floor window at the police station.

Contrary to popular perception, compared to other European nations France has a relatively high rate of firearms ownership. Approximately 23 percent of French households have guns. That compares to 1 percent of households with guns in Japan, and 4 percent in the United Kingdom. [See chart below.] Percentage of Households With Firearms1

Country Percent of homes with firearms Country Percent of homes with firearms
Australia 16% Japan 1%
Canada 26% New Zealand 20%
Finland 50% Norway 32%
France 23% Spain 13%
Germany 9% United Kingdom 4%

According to a 1998 study by the National Center for Health Statistics, in a comparison of 11 industrial nations, except for the United States with a rate of 13.7 per 100,000, France had the highest firearms death rate at 6.3 per 100,000. The rates per 100,000 for the remaining nine foreign nations were: Norway, 4.3; Canada, 3.9; New Zealand 3.1; Australia 2.9; Israel 2.8; Denmark 2.1; Scotland 0.6; The Netherlands 0.5; and, England and Wales 0.4. [See chart below.] Firearm Mortality Rates (per 100,000) in 11 Countries2


Overall Firearm Death Rate

Firearm Homicide Rate Firearm Suicide Rate Firearm Death Rate, aged 15-24 years Firearm Death Rate, aged 65+ years
Australia 2.9 0.4 2.3 3.7 3.6
Canada 3.9 0.5 3.2 5.0 4.3
Denmark 2.1 0.3 1.7 * *
England/Wales 0.4 0.1 0.3 0.4 0.4
France 6.3 0.4 5.1 4.8 9.3
Israel 2.8 0.7 1.7 5.8 2.6
Netherlands 0.5 0.4 ** ** **
New Zealand 3.1 0.4 2.3 4.4 3.6
Norway 4.3 0.3 3.9 6.6 4.1
Scotland 0.6 0.1 0.4 0.9 0.4
United States 13.7 5.9 7.0 27.2 14.2

*Data not available
**Based on fewer than 20 deaths
The direct link between firearm availability and gun death was confirmed last month in a Harvard School of Public Health study published in The Journal of Trauma analyzing gun death among American children. That study showed that children living in the five states with the highest levels of gun ownership were 16 times more likely to die from unintentional firearm injury, seven times more likely to die from firearm suicide, and three times more likely to die from firearm homicide than children in the five states with the lowest levels of gun ownership. Additionally, children in the top five gun ownership states were twice as likely to die from homicide and suicide overall as children in the five lowest gun ownership states.

According to news reports, the Nanterre shooting has moved to center stage of the French presidential campaign, where crime had already become a key focus of the candidates.

1) Wendy Cukier, “Firearms Regulation: Canada in the International Context,” Chronic Diseases in Canada, 19, no. 1, (1998), Table 2.

2) Lois A. Fingerhut, et al., “International Comparative Analysis of Injury Mortality,” Advance Data from Vital and Health Statistics 303, (October 7, 1998): 1-20.



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