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The Truth Behind America's Misleading Gun Numbers

skyandsea876 / CC BY 2.0

While the United States is known for having the highest quantities of gun ownership per capita worldwide, the numbers are less evenly distributed than many realize.​ In an effort to provide a more nuanced look at firearm ownership in this country, The Guardian analyzed who actually has guns and where the most gun violence occurs. The results are telling: turns out only 3 percent of Americans own half of the guns in the U.S.—something like 133 million firearms.

… [S]urveys show that gun ownership in America is actually highly concentrated. Only 22 to 31% of Americans adults say they personally own a gun.

Rates of personal and household gun ownership appear to have declined over the past decades—roughly two-thirds of Americans today say they live in a gun-free household. By contrast, in the late 1970s, the majority of Americans said they lived in a household with guns. … America’s gun super-owners, have amassed huge collections. Just 3% of American adults own a collective 133m firearms—half of America’s total gun stock. These owners have collections that range from eight to 140 guns, the 2015 study found. Their average collection: 17 guns each.

As for deaths and injuries related to guns? Those tend to occur most frequently in the country’s poorest, most vulnerable neighborhoods.

More than 38,000 Americans were killed with guns last year, according to preliminary statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). … Gun suicides make up the majority of gun deaths, more than 20,000 each year. But violent gun injuries represent an even larger toll: more than 60,000 people are shot each year and survive, according to CDC estimates.

More than 700 gun murders each year are related to domestic violence. An Associated Press analysis of official crime data between 2006 and 2014 found an average of 760 Americans were killed with guns each year by spouses, former spouses, or dating partners. … There are also stark racial, economic and geographic disparities in the toll of America’s gun violence epidemic. Experts say violence is a kind of regressive tax, falling most heavily on the country’s poorest neighborhoods and most vulnerable people.

The Intercept noted recently that while gun sales tend to rise after a mass shooting, a recent exception is befuddling gun peddlers.

Mass shootings have in recent years been followed by a predictable cycle: Politicians raise the potential for gun control policies, and gun industry-funded groups respond by exaggerating the reach of gun control, sending people into a gun-buying frenzy. Every mass shooting is effectively transformed into an opportunity for profit. Every mass shooting is effectively transformed into an opportunity for profit.

But following the October 1 mass murder in Las Vegas, which took the lives of 58 people and left 546 others injured, that cycle seems to have broken. And gun companies and their investors have noticed.

Look at an interactive map charting mass shootings in the U.S.  this year by clicking here.

Natasha Hakimi Zapata
Assistant Editor and Poetry Editor
Natasha Hakimi Zapata holds a Creative Writing M.F.A. from Boston University and both a B.A. in Spanish and a B.A. in English with a creative writing concentration from the University of California, Los…
Natasha Hakimi Zapata

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