There's no doubt that the United States loves its guns. To try to understand the depths of this statement, this webpage explores:
- How many guns the US has relative to other countries,
- The rate of growth of gun purchases in the US,
- Mass shootings in the US, and
- The relationship between the number of guns and gun deaths in the US.
Gun ownership throught the world
According to the most recent comprehensive survey of gun ownership worldwide performed in 2017 by the Small Arms Survey , about 46% of all civilian owned guns in the world are in the United States. The median country has 5.4 guns per 100 people; in the US, that number is 120.5 making US the only country in the world with more guns than people.
You can view the data on a map, as a bar plot, or in a sortable table.
US Gun Purchases
It's not particularly easy to get data on gun sales - due, I suppose, to the Dickey Amendment. The FBI, though, maintains data on background checks and these are widely considered to be the best available proxy for gun purchases in the US. The bar plot below shows those gun purchases by month.
There are several pretty clear trends:
- Gun purchases are generally increasing year by year
- There are seasonal trends with December being the favorite time to purchase a gun. I guess a gun makes a great "gift".
- There are several spikes:
One prominent byproduct of so many guns is gun violence.
Mass shootings in the US
Gun violence in North Carolina
As dramatic as mass shootings are, they only count for a fraction of killings by gun in the US. In 2022, for example, Mother Jones' data indicates there were 12 mass shootings in the US with 74 fatalities. We can consult the Gun Violence Archive to broaden the scope to account for all known instances of gun violence. We then find that in that year in North Carolina alone
- there were 1642 incidents, with
- 1203 injuries, and
- 684 people killed.
The map below is a density map shaded by number of people injured or killed by guns in North Carolina during that calendar year 2022.
Guns and gun deaths
The sad part is that we know how to reduce gun deaths - simply reduce the number of guns. One of the first and still most important publications in this regard is "Gun Ownership as a Risk Factor for Homicide in the Home". Unfortunately, there's not been much serious scholarship since, due to the Dickey Amendment, which was passed specifically to curtail this type of research.
It's not hard, though, to explore the relationship between the number guns and the occurence of gun violence by using publically available data. The visualization below explores the relationship between the percentage of households in a state with a gun (as estimated by RAND) and the number of people per 100,000 killed by guns in that state (as tabulated by the CDC).