Americans are odd ones. We live in fear of certain kinds of ‘terrorism,’ yet many of us remain complacent in the face of ghastly domestic massacres committed by seemingly ordinary citizens with guns. We spend billions fighting terror around the globe annually, but cannot seem to grapple with our own uniquely American brand of terror at home – gun violence – with even the most common-sense reforms on gun control.
Check out some of the most disturbing facts about American homegrown gun violence below to get a sense of the bigger picture.
Every day, 85 Americans are killed by a firearm.
For perspective, that’s the same number killed by drunk drivers each day, adding up to more than 31,000 a year. Sadly, Americans are 20 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than people in other developed countries. And yes, more people die from gun-related homicides in states with looser laws.
More Americans have died from domestic gunfire just since 1968 than in all our wars combined since the Revolutionary War.
It seems that gun violence over the last half-century or so has done in more Americans than all our wars combined going back to the Revolutionary War. It just goes to show you, while war is hell, you don’t need formal enemies of the state to see the lives of your fellow Americans endangered.
Having a weapon in the home doubles your risk of being murdered.
According to a study published earlier this year in the Annals of Internal Medicine, Americans who live in homes with firearms are more than three times as vulnerable to death by homicide as those living in gun-free homes. Clearly, having a gun in the home doesn’t always serve one’s interests.
Two-thirds of gun deaths in the U.S. are suicides.
Contrary to popular belief, most gun deaths are self-inflicted. And that’s too bad, because suicide is very responsive to simple preventative measures that make it less convenient. This is because suicides are usually unpremeditated events – emotional, spur-of-the-moment decisions that are easily foiled by intervening situational factors. As a result, one of the biggest risk factors for suicide is having a gun at home. Nothing makes suicide easier: Load, pull, done.
In other words, increased control over guns is highly likely to help reduce the country’s suicide rate – a major cause of death in the U.S. Given that – according to the Supreme Court – “the core lawful purpose [of the Second Amendment is] self-defense,” the fact that guns mostly go to self-destruction is especially ironic and tragic.
Almost half of gun owners haven’t passed a basic background check.
Even though the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 requires all retail gun buyers to undergo a background check, some 40 percent of all firearms purchasers manage to avoid a background check entirely.
This isn’t surprising given how easy it is to buy a gun on Facebook without a background check. It need not cost more than a few hundred dollars if you’re looking for budget-friendly options. And it’s not just Facebook. The Internet in general has made illicit gun purchases easier than ever before. Combined with lax laws governing gun shows and flea markets, those who want to indulge in the arms market despite federal ineligibility have many convenient options these days.
Mass shootings in the U.S. have become a massive problem.
There have been over 30 mass shootings in the U.S. since Columbine in 1999, and the rate is still rising. Since 2009, it’s about two mass shootings per month. No more than 3 consecutive months have passed without one. The United States is not the only country plagued by mass shootings, but it may be the only one where even the most horrific public massacres have spurred little or no substantive reforms.
Most mass shootings in the U.S. stem from domestic violence.
Most mass shootings occur in a private home and involve domestic violence against a current or former partner or family member. Although it is not often discussed, this fact makes gun control a major women’s issue. For domestic abusers, the handgun is by far the weapon of choice; having one on hand quintuples the likelihood an abuser will use it to murder his intimate partner. There is no question that women disproportionately bear the brunt of high handgun availability.
U.S. gunmakers market their wares to children, and there are consequences.
Despite the bad press provoked by the drumbeat of mass shootings, demand for guns in the U.S., although not evenly distributed across the population, remains extraordinarily high. The market has become more and more saturated – to the point that gunmakers are now sampling the kiddie space.
Violent incidents caused by hapless armed children have sparked fierce criticism of manufacturers like Keystone Sporting Arms, which sells thousands of “My First Rifle” weapons to budding tyke gun-toters annually. This trend testifies to how lax gun laws are in the U.S.; in 30 states, it’s perfectly legal for a child to own a rifle or shotgun.
In six states, it’s legal to own a lethal firearm but not a stun gun.
The Supreme Court says the main purpose of the Second Amendment is self-defense, but the gun lobby has had little to say about weapons explicitly designed for that purpose. That’s because the guns it prefers aren’t exactly discreet self-defense tools. AR-15s, tactical shotguns, “special purpose” assault weapons, and the like – because the government needs to stop raining on drug traffickers and paramilitary extremists’ parade.
Meanwhile, tools actually designed for real-world self-defense like Tasers, pepper spray and stun guns remain absurdly restricted in many states. In fact, Tasers and stun guns are illegal in six states where it is perfectly legal to own lethal firearms. Why the bizarre hypocrisy? Because the non-lethal weapons lobby is tiny compared to its mighty lethal-weapon counterpart.
U.S. guns fuel endangered wildlife killings at home and abroad.
The global proliferation of cheap light weapons made in the U.S. exacts a heavy toll on wildlife both at home and abroad. In Africa, for example, the high availability of affordable military-grade weapons has enabled poachers to militarize their illicit slaughter of endangered animals like rhinos and elephants, whose byproducts are in high demand on world markets.
These animals are too large to hide from gunfire and do not know to flee from a rifle. Abundant small arms encourage low-level criminals to cash in on a black market that now rivals the size of the legal market in precious metals.
The NRA helped arm the shooter in the 2012 Aurora theater massacre.
It turns out that the assault rifle used by James Eagan Holmes in the 2012 Aurora, Colorado movie theater massacre – the Smith & Wesson M&P15, billed as “a good entry-level AR-15” – used to be illegal. That is, until the NRA pressured Congress to lift the ban. As noted by Upworthy, “Guns don’t kill people — people who use the assault rifles that the National Rifle Association lobbied Congress to un-ban in 2004 kill people.”
The civilian gun market is being militarized.The “recklessly unrestricted” marketing and sales of militarized weaponry,
notes author Tom Diaz, has led to the phenomenon of the modern militarized criminal. This emergence is key to the surge in mass killings in the U.S., many of which have utilized military-grade firepower to take more lives in less time. While military-grade weapons do not cause most gun-related homicides, they do exact an unbearable toll in terms of sheer carnage.
More than two-thirds of the advanced weaponry used by drug cartels in Mexico comes from the U.S. market.
Parallel to the rise in personal weapons of mass destruction in the U.S. has been increasing violence south of the border in Mexico, where a significant proportion of the weaponry wielded by the fearsome drug cartels comes from our own anything-goes gun marketplace. In 2012, the ATF found that 68,000 out of 99,000 guns discovered in Mexico and submitted to the ATF since 2007 originated in the United States.
The U.S. produced more than 100 million firearms over the past 25 years.
According to the Small Arms Survey, a research project conducted by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland, the U.S. has manufactured more than 100 million firearms since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The U.S. does not have strict gun control laws.
To hear some gun rights advocates talk, you might think the U.S. is some kind of gun-hating tyrannical nanny state with too many gun control laws as it is. Nonsense – the fact is we have the most lax gun laws in the developed world by a long shot, and the most gun violence, too – not a coincidence.
We are one of only three countries in the world with a constitutional right to bear arms, and the other two, Guatemala and Mexico, modeled theirs after ours. Moreover, the gun laws we do have in the U.S. are poorly defined and poorly enforced. Gun control is conspicuous for its absence in a country that has more gun shops than McDonald’s outlets.