“America’s relationship to gun ownership is unique,
and its gun culture is a global outlier.”
– CNN, November 26, 2021 (1)
The United States has more civilian guns than people, 120 guns per 100 people. It is the only nation where that is true. Number 2, the Falkland Islands is next with 62 guns per 100 people. Yemen is 3rd at 53 guns per 100. Both those countries have had armed conflicts within their borders for years.
Americans own about half of all civilian guns in the world (Includes only the registered, legal guns, of course). Almost 50% of Americans live in a house with a gun.
The United States is one of only three countries in the world that have a constitutional right to bear arms; Guatemala and Mexico are the others, but their gun ownership ration is 1/10th of ours. Mexico has only one gun store, and it is owned by the army (I’ll come back to where Central America gets most its guns later).
Our constitutional right was established at a time when we had just fought a war against a foreign power that still commanded strong loyalty from a significant portion of our population, and we desired to retain the right to maintain a strong militia. Our current threats seem to be domestic rather than foreign, so maybe both sides are arming themselves, as is their right.
In March 2021 the FBI reported almost 4.7 MILLION background checks, of which 2 MILLION where for new guns, the second highest month on record. Background check requests increased by 60% from 2020 to 2021.
The United States is #1 in gun-related homicides; 4.1 per 100,000 people.
That actually sounds low, BUT it is 18 times the average rate in 36 other developed countries. #2 is Bulgaria with 0.6 gun related homicides per 100,000 people. (2019)
In 2020 in the U.S. 1,375 kids 17 years or younger were killed by guns; 1,179 dead and 3,292 injured so far by October 2021. True, a significant number of these U.S. homicides are gang or drug-related. Black teenagers and children are four times more likely than whites to be fatally shot, BUT in 25 states “stand your ground” laws allowing lethal protection of a home or “when facing an imminent threat of harm” and “self-defense verdicts” for people who shoot other people carrying guns, means that there will probably be more gun-related homicides outside “urban areas”. Here’s a tip: If you are walking around unarmed (or armed) in Wisconsin, do not initiate angry words with someone carrying a gun; you may be killed, . . . legally.
We have more deaths from gun violence than any other developed country (8X Canada, 23X European Union, and 23x Australian rates). We are up there with the chart toppers of El Salvador, Venezuela, Guatemala ,Colombia, and Honduras.
It makes me kind of wonder why WE think we can teach or demonstrate to Central American countries about how to reduce gun violence there which is probably a major cause of our immigration border “crisis”.
Those other chart topper countries, of course, have guns from old, ongoing revolutionary and cartel conflicts, but many of their guns come from the U.S.; 68% of firearms seized in Mexico in 2019 came from the U.S. A joint U.S./Mexican government report in February 2021 stated that about 200,000 guns a year cross over from America to Mexico.
In 2018 U.S. gun makers produced 9 million new guns, double the number made in 2008.
Several reports document that any discussion of gun control legislation or a widely-reported mass shooting triggers a run up of gun purchases. Must be FOMO at work in preparation for an expected open warfare. I wonder what will happen to gun sales following the ratification of vigilantism by the Rittenhouse trial verdict.
About half (23,365) of all world-wide gun associated suicides in 2019 occurred in the U.S., with just 4% of the world’s population. Mexico, with all its guns, only had 914. While “personal safety” tops the list of why Americans say they own a gun, 63% of U.S. gun-related deaths are SELF-INFLICTED. Men who own guns are eight times more likely to commit a gun suicide compared to non-owners. Gun-owning women are 35 times more likely to die by gun-suicide then non-owners. (2020)
Many adolescent gun suicides are accomplished with their parent’s gun. Safe guns that can be fired only by the owner’s hand exist, but are not available from manufacturers. Pediatricians are all told to ask parents about guns in the house and preach safe gun storage.
Despite all our background checks, shooters running amok have” made the U.S. #1, as well, in mass shootings; over 100 mass killings with 2,000 dead since 1989. No other country had more than 8 mass shooting incidents during that same period. Using the definition of a mass shooting as “at least 4 people shot (excluding the shooter)” the Gun Violence Archive of Washington, D.C. counted 417 mass shooting incidents in the U.S. in 2019, 641 in 2021.
Multiple studies in other countries and in some of our states with tightened gun laws, particularly aimed at privately-held hand guns, show that such laws markedly reduce deaths and injuries from gun violence. BUT, in the U.S. “only half of adults favor stricter gun laws and political reform remains at a standstill. 80% of Republicans and 19% of Democrats think that our gun laws are either just right or too strict. The U.S. gun lobby has seized a right-based narrative to justify, dangerously, the right to bear, carry, and use firearms. The deadly cycle of violence seems destined to continue.”
Please feel free to spout out any one or more of these “fun facts” at your happiest holiday cocktail party or family gathering. You’ll be remembered.
1. “How U.S. Gun Culture Stacks Up with the World” , K. Fox, et al, Nov. 26, 2021, CNN.com
(Small Arms Survey (SAS) 2017, Geneva Switzerland; Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) University of Washington; UN World Report; Gun Violence Archive; Jason Silva. Prof. of Criminal Justice, William Patterson University)
2. “Gun Violence: The Epidemic We Aren’t Studying”, Herbert Mathewson, MD, OP-ED “My View”, Cape Cod Times, June 1, 2018
3. “Lets Treat Gun Owners Like Doctors”, Hubslist, Vol. 84, Feb. 2013 https://wordpress.com/post/hubslist.org/1632