As gun violence in the United States grows at an alarming rate, survey finds that the United States is the only nation in the world where civilian guns outnumber people. There are 120 guns for every 100 Americans, according to the Switzerland-based Small Arms Survey (SAS). While many Americans hold their right to bear arms as sacrosanct, other critics of the Second Amendment counter that it threatens the right to life.
Meanwhile, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported Monday that The United States experienced 61 'active shooter' incidents last year, 52% higher than 2020 in the sheer number of attacks, casualties and geographic distribution and the highest tally in over 20 years.
Another tragic school shooting held Tuesday raged a massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. The attack has been recorded as the second-deadliest school shooting in the history of The United States. A record number of at least 19 students and two teachers have been confirmed dead, according to the police, who said they subsequently shot and killed the gunman, Salvador Ramos, 18, a student at a nearby high school, per New York Times.
After the incident, US President Joe Biden urged, in a televised speech, that Americans must stand up to the gun lobby and pressure members of Congress to pass sensible gun laws.
How gun culture in the US compares to the rest of the world
The Falkland Islands is home to the world's second-largest stash of civilian guns per capita. But with an estimated 62 guns per 100 people, its gun ownership rate is almost half that of the US. Yemen has the third-highest gun ownership rate at 53 guns per 100 people, reports CNN.
SAS researchers estimate that Americans own 393 million of the 857 million civilian guns available, which is around 46% of the world's civilian gun cache. About 44% of US adults live in a household with a gun, and about one-third own one personally, according to an October 2020 Gallup survey.
The ownership rate in Guatemala and Mexico is almost a tenth of the United States. In Mexico, there's only one gun store in the entire country -- and it's controlled by the army.
In the US, firearm manufacturing is on the rise, with more Americans buying guns.
The US has the highest firearm homicide rate in the developed world
In 2019, the number of US deaths from gun violence was about 4 per 100,000 people. That's 18 times the average rate in other developed countries. Multiple studies show that where people have easy access to firearms, gun-related deaths tend to be more frequent, including by suicide, homicide and unintentional injuries.
The rate in the US is eight times greater than in Canada, which has the seventh highest rate of gun ownership in the world; 22 times higher than in the European Union and 23 times greater than in Australia.
The gun-related homicide rate in Washington, DC is close to levels in Brazil, which ranks sixth highest in the world for gun-related homicides.
Latin America and the Caribbean suffer from the highest rates of firearm homicides, with El Salvador, Venezuela, Guatemala, Colombia and Honduras topping the charts, exacerbated by weapons that come from the US.
The US was home to 4% of the world's population but accounted for 44% of global suicides by firearm in 2019
The country recorded the largest number of gun-related suicides in the world every year from 1990 to 2019.
While personal safety tops the list of reasons why American gun owners say they own a firearm, 63% of US gun-related deaths are self-inflicted.
Over 23,000 Americans died from self-inflicted gunshot wounds in 2019. That number accounts for 44% of the gun suicides globally and dwarfs suicide totals in any other country in the world.
At six firearm suicides per 100,000 people, the US rate of suicide is, on average, seven times higher than in other developed nations.
No other developed nation has mass shootings at the same scale or frequency as the US
But no other nation saw more than eight incidents over 22 years, while the United States had over 100 — with almost 2,000 people killed or injured. US states with more permissive gun laws and greater gun ownership had higher rates of mass shootings.
The House of Representatives passed legislation that would require unlicensed and private sellers, as well as all licensed sellers to do federal background checks before all gun sales -- and to ensure that buyers are fully vetted before making the sale.
UN bodies underlined concerns, pointing to America's "stand your ground" laws, which allow gun owners in at least 25 states to use deadly force in any situation where they believe that they face an imminent threat of harm, without first making any effort to deescalate the situation or retreat. Reports said that the law can encourage people to respond to situations with lethal force, rather than use it as a last resort.
Gun-related deaths reduced after the introduction of stricter laws in these countries
Meanwhile, countries that have introduced laws to reduce gun-related deaths have achieved significant changes.
After Australia's worst mass shooting, the federal government banned rapid-fire rifles and shotguns, and unifying gun owner licensing and registrations across the country. In the next 10 years gun deaths in Australia fell by more than 50% and led to an average drop in firearm suicide rates of 74% in the years that followed.
In South Africa, gun-related deaths almost halved over a 10-year-period after new gun legislation, the Firearms Control Act of 2000, went into force in July 2004. The new laws made it much more difficult to obtain a firearm.
In New Zealand, gun laws were swiftly amended after the 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings, banning all military-style semi-automatic weapons. Britain tightened its gun laws and banned most private handgun ownership.
While many countries are striving to tackle gun violence by imposing laws and restrictions on access to firearms, the deadly cycle of violence grows grimmer with each tragic incident across the globe.