Friday, December 11, 2015

Albania's Death Rate From Guns 'Higher than US'

New data show that the rate of gun-related deaths per head of the population is higher in Albania than in the US - although experts disagree on what makes Albanians trigger-happy.

Fatjona Mejdini


Albania has a higher level of gun-related deaths per head of the population than the United States, according to data from the country's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

 It says the rate of gun-related deaths per 100,000 people in 2013 in Albania was 5.86 while in the US the number was 3.55.

The second worst country in the Balkans in terms of the rate of gun-related deaths per head of the population is Montenegro with 2.13 per 100,000 people.

The least affected country in the region is Bulgaria with 0.64 per 100,000 of the population.

Although the rate of gun-related deaths in Albania is alarming, the data show a mild reduction in the numbers.

The institute's data show that back in 2000 the number was as high as 7.86. In 2005, the figure fell figure to 6.01 and in 2010 it was down to 5.91.

In 1997, when law and order collapsed in the country, military depots were broken into and over 500,000 rifles and other arms passed into the hands of ordinary citizens. This chaotic situation was blamed for around 2,000 deaths that same year.

Arian Dyrmishi, a security expert from the Institute for Democracy and Mediation, told BIRN that the connection between the number of illegal guns in the possession of citizens and the number of murders in the country was far from clear.

"In Albania it is estimated that around 250,000 illegal guns are in the hands of citizens but this in one of the lowest numbers in the region," he said.

"In Serbia, you have around 2 million illegal weapons, and in Macedonia about 1.5 million," he added, arguing that the high number of deaths might have other causes.

Edmond Dragoti, a psychologist and professor at Tirana University, told BIRN that the high number of gun-related deaths in Albania was partly a cultural phenomenon.

"Guns have been part of Albanian culture for centuries. People have used them to protect their existence. They have guarded their territories, their families and their properties with guns, so they are rooted in their identity," he said.

He believes that after the 1990s, however people turned guns against each other also because of the lack of a normal society and weak state structures.

"The lack of social justice and widespread institutional irresponsibility have resulted in this high number of death from guns over these years. The lack of a strong state has led people to self-protection," he said.

Dragoti sees also the longterm poverty of Albanians as another factor behind the high level of gun-related deaths.

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