Understanding Gun Violence in America, by the Numbers

Because we have a lot of guns.

Wikimedia Commons

On Sunday, a gunman killed at least 58 people during an outdoor concert in Las Vegas. The gunman, identified by police as 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, was armed with more than 10 rifles as he opened fire on concert-goers from the 32nd floor of a hotel window.

While there is still a lot that we don’t know about this attack and the motives behind it, one thing is certain: This is the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

It’s important to keep in mind that despite recent terror attacks using trucks and other strategies, mass killings are most often carried out with guns. And America has a lot of guns.

How Many Guns Are in the U.S.?

In 2013, Pew Research pegged the number of guns in the U.S. as anywhere from 270 million to 310 million — that’s one for nearly every person who lives in the U.S. Based on more recent statistics, that number has likely risen.

According to a 2016 report from the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Alchohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, 9.1 million guns were manufactured in the U.S. in 2014. That’s nearly double the amount manufactured 20 years prior; in 1994, 5.2 million guns were made. The report excludes production for the U.S. military, but it includes firearms purchased by domestic law enforcement agencies.

A graph via the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives shows we have been making a lot more guns.

While the number of guns made in America has gone up, the amount of guns that are exported has remained consistent, and considerably smaller, fluctuating between 140,000 and around 400,000 a year over the past two decades.

Oh yeah, we also imported 3.6 million guns in 2014. Again that’s nearly double what we were importing 20 years ago, which was around 1.9 million guns.

The majority of guns imported to the U.S. in 2015 were handguns.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Who Owns These Guns?

Most guns around the world are privately owned by civilians — and the U.S. outranks every other country in terms of gun ownership.

The Small Arms Survey study estimated that in 2007 the number of civilian firearm ownership worldwide was somewhere around 650 million weapons. So America owns nearly half of the civilian firearms that exist in the world. The next closest gun-touting country was India, with 46 million firearms.

Civilian gun owners in a pie chart, via Small Arms Survey. The United States has a large piece of the pie.

Small Arms Survey

The Small Arms Survey also found that the U.S. had 88.8 guns per 100 people. That’s nearly three times as many as in Canada, where there are 30.8 guns per 100 people. Germany has 30 guns per 100 people and England only six; it’s worth noting these countries have much stricter gun laws than the U.S. and Canada.

How Many Gun-Related Fatalities Are There?

The [New York Times] has reported that in England, only about one out of every million people die in gun homicides each year. In 2013, that number was 144. In Germany, it was 926.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, in 2016 there were 15,079 deaths from guns in the U.S. This year, there have been 11,652 deaths so far.

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