Gun ownership and gun deaths

Given recent events, I took a look at the data relating to gun deaths overall and the  extraordinarily high rates of mass shootings in the USA compared to the rest of the world. Despite President Trump blaming video games and mental disorders, the data show that the US has similar levels of mental disorders and usage of video games as other high income countries. What does stand out is the difference in levels of gun ownership.

Based on results from the Small Arms Survey 2018(see smallarmssurvey), there are 150 guns per 100 adults in the USA, compared to 8.7 per 100 adults 15+ for the rest of the world combined.

According to the Small Arms Survey 2018 results, there are one billion firearms in global circulation as of 2017, 857 million (85 per cent) are in civilian hands, 133 million (13 per cent) are in military arsenals, and 23 million (2 per cent) are owned by law enforcement agencies. Of the 875 million guns in civilian hands, 393 million of them are in the USA. In other words, 46% of all guns in civilian hands in the world are in the hands of US civilians.

A 2017 US survey (pewsocialtrends) found that 30% of American adults currently own a gun, 4 in 10 US adults say they live in a gun-owning household and 72% of US adults have shot a gun. Among gun owners, 66% own more than one gun, with an average of 6 guns per multiple gun owner. However this statistic is skewed by the 3% of gun owners who own half of all guns in the USA, with an average of 17 each. 38% of gun owners say there is a gun loaded and easily accessible at all times in their home. 26% say they carry their gun with them outside the home all or most of the time.

44% of US adults personally know someone who has been shot, and 23% say they or someone in their family have been threated by someone using a gun.

I was interested to contrast these figures with those for Australia, where gun laws were somewhat tightened after the Port Arthur Massacre. In 2017 there were 18 guns per 100 adults aged 15 and over. Around 6% of households have a gun, down from 25% in 1988 before the Port Arthur Massacre. Apart from banning semi-automatic and automatic weapons, a key part of the Australian gun regime is the requirement to register weapons. Registered owners are responsible for the use of weapons registered to them, and for example, must report loss or theft to the police. An estimated 88% of weapons in Australia are registered, compared with 0.3% in the USA.

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