11 things you (perhaps) don't know about firearms in the United States


The massacre at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas - with 59 people killed and 527 injured in what has been called the worst mass shooting in recent American history - has reignited the debate on access to firearms in the US. President Donald Trump has remained silent on the issue, while the titles of the big arms producers have been on the market, in anticipation of a sales boom (as had already happened following the Orlando and San Bernardino massacres).

Every time a similar incident occurs, the arms lobbies defend themselves by saying that it would be inconvenient to address the issue in the aftermath of such a painful event. At the same time, these massacres do not seem to shake up those who claim the right to possess a weapon to defend themselves - indeed, the consensus around the possession of weapons would have risen in the last 20 years, since the mass shootings began to make more news .

As you will read in these eleven facts, the relationship between the Americans and the weapons is more complex than is believed.

1. In the US there are more weapons than people. A report by the Congressional Research Service states that there are 357 million firearms in the US against a population of only 318.9 million people. According to the report, 20% of owners own 65% of the weapons. The US is home to 4.4% of the earth's population, but 42% of the world's armed civilians.

Image Americans and weapons: a controversial relationship. | Shutterstock

2. Fortunately, there are less of the past. According to the General Social Survey, one of the leading US polls, 31% of Americans had a firearm in 2014.

Good news for those who are against the spread of weapons: the figure is 17 percentage points below the peak reached in the three-year period 1977-1980, when 48% of Americans had at least one weapon.

3. More than one mass shooting per day occurs on average in the USA. Waiting for a day free from massacres of firearms to discuss the possession of guns and rifles could mean having to wait a long time. What you see is a 2015 calendar that takes into account the mass shootings (ie with a number of victims equal to or greater than 4) recorded in the country. Over 336 days analyzed, 355 shootings were recorded.

Image If not now, when? | Shutterstock

4. Second Amendment. Whenever a politician or association proposes more restrictive legislation on possession of firearms, politicians and pro-weapons lobbies, such as the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA), they appeal to the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution, which says :

Since a well-organized militia is necessary for the security of a free state, the right of citizens to hold and bear arms cannot be broken.

His critics, however, point out that this is an article adopted on 15 December 1791, in decidedly different times, with very different weapons: then, muskets that fired at most 2 or 3 shots per minute; today automatic weapons that can even shoot 100 shots per minute.

5. How violent are the US with respect to others? The graphic below is explained by Kieran Healy, a sociologist at Duke University, who shows gunshot deaths in the United States (blue) and other developed countries (red). The gap is clear: the US holds the sad record of the highest number of firearms killings of any other Western country (6 times more than Canada, 16 times more than Germany). A small consolation: in the last 40 years, the situation has definitely improved.

Image How violent are the US compared to others? | Shutterstock

6. Easy weapons. In most American states, anyone over the age of 21 can buy a gun, while those over the age of 18 can buy a shotgun or shotgun. It is sufficient to present an identity document: the seller merely records the data and associates them with the weapon (but in private sales the law is less restrictive). Since 1968, the perpetrators of crimes, illegal immigrants, people subject to restrictive ordinances, those who use drugs or particular drugs and foreigners cannot buy or possess weapons.

States with more firearms are also those with the highest number of violent homicides and suicides (not only for the US, but for all industrialized countries). Other factors such as higher housing density, more stress or more immigrants are not related to an increase in deaths from firearms. The states with the greatest circulation of weapons are also those with the greatest number of gunshot killings attributed to the police. Since August 9, 2014 (when the young Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri) to date, at least 2, 902 deaths have occurred.

7. Massacres. According to the Gun Violence Archive, the Las Vegas massacre is the 273th mass shooting in the US in the 275 days of 2017 that have passed so far. This year there were 11, 600 deaths related to firearms (mostly suicides), the equivalent to 4 attacks of 11 September 2001, by number of victims. In 2016, there were over 15 thousand deaths due to a shot.

Image An image from the 2013 NRA | Shutterstock

8. Surveys. According to the Gallup polling company, 47% of Americans say they want stricter laws on the sale of firearms. 38% percent of Americans want the laws to remain as they are, and 14% say they should be made even less strict.

In 2012, after the school shooting in Newtown (Connecticut), the percentage of those who wanted a tightening of the rules on the sale and possession of weapons was 58%.

9. Alaska. The state where weapons are most widespread is Alaska (more than 60% of the inhabitants have at least one). But the most heavily armed are the southern states. The typical buyer of a firearm is white, male and interested in hunting weapons.

10. Lobby. Weapon owners are represented by powerful lobbies such as the NRA (the National Rifle Association, which supported Donald Trump's race to the White House), Safari Club International, Gun Owners of America and the National Association for Gun Rights, which receive money from the arms industry. But how much does the arms lobby spend? According to some sources, in 2014 the 52 lobbyists, representing 10 clients, would have spent over 12 million dollars to influence the congress decisions.

11. Myths. Among the main producers of firearms is Smith and Wesson, one of the most famous and ancient American companies: founded in 1852, very active during the civil war, it produced the infamous 44 magnum star of a film with Clint Eastwood (Una 44 magnum for Inspector Callaghan).