United States Gun Culture

More mass shootings in the U.S.

How many guns are there in the US?

While calculating the number of guns in private hands around the world is difficult, figures from the Small Arms Survey – a Swiss-based leading research project – estimate that there were 390 million guns in circulation in 2018.

The US ratio of 120.5 firearms per 100 residents, up from 88 per 100 in 2011, far surpasses that of other countries around the world.

More recent data also suggests that gun ownership grew significantly over the last several years. One study, published by the Annals of Internal Medicine in February, found that 7.5 million US adults – just under 3% of the population – became first new gun owners between January 2019 and April 2021.

This, in turn, exposed 11 million people to firearms in their homes, including 5 million children. About half of new gun owners in that time period were women, while 40% were either black or Hispanic.

A separate study, published by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2021, linked a rise in gun ownership during the pandemic to higher rates of gun injuries among – and inflicted by – children.

How do US gun deaths break down?

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a total of 45,222 people died from gun-related injuries of all causes during 2020, the last year for which complete data is available.

And while mass shooting and gun murders generally garner more media attention, of the total, 54% – about 24,300 deaths – were suicides.

A 2016 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found there was a strong relationship between higher levels of gun ownership in a state and higher firearm suicide rates for both men and women.

Advocates for stricter gun laws in the United States often cite this statistic when pushing lawmakers to devote more resources to mental health and fewer to easing gun restrictions.

How do US gun killings compare with other countries?

Are mass shootings becoming deadlier?
Deaths from the “mass shootings” that attract international attention, however, are harder to track.

While the country does not have a single definition for “mass shootings”, the FBI has for over a decade tracked “active shooter incidents” in which “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area”.

According to the FBI, there were 345 “active shooter incidents” in the United States between 2000-2020, resulting in more than 1,024 deaths and 1,828 injuries.

The deadliest such attack, in Las Vegas in 2017, killed more than 50 people and left 500 wounded. The vast majority of mass shootings, however, leave fewer than 30 people dead.

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