The United States of America is notorious in the Western world for its liberal attitude to guns. In most states, civilians owning guns is not only legal but commonplace. To most of the rest of the Western world this can be hard to comprehend, but it’s a simple fact of life in the USA. The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution says that Americans have the right to bear arms, and this shows no signs of changing.
As such, gun violence in the US is, unfortunately, rampant. The US firearms homicide rate is up to twenty times higher than the combined rates of twenty-two other countries which are roughly its equals in terms of wealth and population. One in three people in America know a person who has been shot, and specifically pertaining to children, more than one in five has witnessed a shooting. Children in the US die by guns eleven times more than in other high-income countries, and during the 2000s eighty-five pre-school aged children were killed by guns in one year — a death rate higher than that of police officers in the line of duty.
These are all problems enough without considering the financial difficulties gun violence inflicts on the country: all results of gun violence, including medical treatment, security, and criminal justice proceedings costs US citizens an incredible $2.3 billion yearly. All of this is only the tip of the iceberg of the complications caused by civilian gun ownership. The following are ten truly shocking facts pertaining to gun violence in the US.
9. There are 270 million guns owned by civilians
In the US today, there are a shocking 270 million guns in circulation owned by civilians. This makes America the number one country in the world in terms of gun possession. A recent study suggests that there are almost 89 guns for every 100 people in the US — as compared to the country with the second-most guns in the world, India, which has just 4 guns for every 100 civilians. The same study also indicates that the US has the highest firearm-related homicide rate of all of the developed nations. Despite only hosting a total of 5% of the world’s population, the US is home to 35-50% of all civilian-held guns in the world.
8. Guns are easier to come by than beer
Today, if all outlets are included, the US has almost 130,000 licensed firearms dealers throughout the country. This includes pawn shops, collectors and other vendors. While buying a gun from a licensed dealer requires a number of documents and processes — including presentation of the buyer’s ID, a background check on the buyer, and a written record of the sale — buying a gun from a private seller requires none of the above, rendering guns easier to buy in the US than a beer. In 2012, an estimated forty percent of all guns in circulation were sold via a private dealer.
7. There are more guns than cars in America
As if the last statistic weren’t illuminating enough, to put the sheer volume of guns in America into perspective, there are two hundred and seventy million guns in circulation in the US today, compared to 254 million cars. The figures pertaining to retail also seem to add up in a similar way: in 2011 there were 129, 197 licensed gun dealers in the US, as compared to 36,569 grocery stores and 14,098 McDonald’s restaurants.
6. There have been 62 mass shootings in the last two decades
In the US, there have been a staggering sixty-two mass shootings over the last twenty years. This cycle began with Carl Robert Brown, a high school teacher who opened fire in a welding shop, ultimately killing ten people. The shootings have occurred in such places as an Air Force Base, a train and an Italian restaurant, but the most common setting seems to be schools, possibly the most infamous of which is the Columbine school shooting. The most recent and widely publicised school shooting was that at Sandy Hook Elementary school which occurred in 2012, resulting in the deaths of at least twenty-eight people, both adults and children. Chillingly, most people who are known to have gone on a mass shooting spree in the US obtained their guns legally.
5. Alaska is the most “gun friendly” state
While it’s not particularly surprising to learn that Kentucky owns the most guns, and the state with the most guns per capita is Wyoming (59.7%), it might be surprising to note that the most “gun friendly” state is Alaska. In Alaska, no permit is required to purchase a gun, own a gun, or carry a gun. There are also absolutely no state restrictions on assault weapons or NFA weapons. In addition to this, Alaska has castle doctrine and observes stand-your-ground law, meaning that you are entitled to use deadly force against a person entering your home illegally and/or by force. In most cases, the person “standing their ground” has no official duty to retreat.
4. More than 30 people are murdered by guns per day
Across the US, over thirty people are murdered by use of a gun every day. This already high figure only accounts for homicides; on top of that, an average of fifty-three suicides using guns occur per day, along with two accidental deaths, and one shooting in a police intervention. Overall, there are two hundred and eighty-nine people shot in the USA every day.
3. Homicide is second-leading cause of death 15-24 year olds
For all fifteen to twenty-four year olds in the US, homicide using guns is the second-leading cause of death, and is the number one leading cause of death for the African-American population of this age group. For those aged twenty-five to thirty-four, homicide is the third-leading cause of death. The biggest killer across the board in America is motor vehicle crashes, but gun misuse is uncomfortably close behind across most demographics.
2. The state with the highest rate of death by guns is Louisiana
A recent study conducted by the Violence Policy Center showed that 45.6% of homes in Louisiana have a gun. In 2011, Louisiana had around 19 gun-related deaths per 100,000 residents, the most in the nation. At the time, it also had the highest murder rate of all states in America, and its rate of suicide by gun was significantly higher than the national average. Other studies noted that Louisiana has a high poverty rate and low levels of education overall, with over 20% of its population living below the poverty line. Louisiana’s gun laws do not require a person to have a permit before buying a handgun.
1. Only 1% of gun dealers account for 60% of crime guns recovered and traced by police
Shockingly, just 1% of gun dealers account for 60% of crime guns obtained by police. Stolen guns account for only 10-15% of guns used for crime also, leading to the conclusion that guns purchased on the black market, or via a couple of legally-licensed but privately corrupt gun dealers, are those most used for gun crime.