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Armed to the Teeth

Much of U.S. history is inextricably linked with guns. They remain a major cultural element today, despite pervasive accidents and intentional homicides. We wonder: Which of the following statements about the United States and guns are correct?

A. More mass shootings than any other developed nation.
B. Gun ownership rate is the highest in the world.
C. U.S. stands out for the lack of policy response after mass shootings
D. The gun death rate is the highest in the G7.

A. The U.S. has more mass shootings than any other developed nation is correct.

The Congressional Research Service has defined “mass shooting” as a single event involving the murder of four or more people with a firearm, in public or private spaces.

From 1999 to 2013, there were 317 such events in the United States, killing 1,554 people and wounding 441. On average, there were 4.5 incidents annually from 2010 through 2013. This compares with 2.7 mass shootings annually in the 1980s and just 1.1 annually in the 1970s.

A study of similar events in 13 other leading economies found 33 mass shootings from 2000 to 2013. Germany had six such events, Russia and China had four, and Canada and South Africa had three.

Some shootings outside the United States have been very large, too. A domestic terrorist in Norway killed 67 people, mostly children, in 2011.

B. The U.S. gun ownership rate is the highest in the world is correct.

There were 112.6 civilian guns per 100 people in the United States (i.e., more guns than people), as of 2013, based on U.S. government estimates. More than two-thirds of American households do not own guns, but U.S. gun owners tend to own multiple guns.

The global runner-up for per capita gun ownership, Yemen, pales in comparison to U.S. gun ownership, with just 54.8 civilian guns per 100 people.

A review of the latest national data in other G7 economies shows that the gun ownership rate in Canada is about 2.2 per 100, while it is about 3.5 in the UK. In Germany, it is about 6.8. In Australia, the rate is at least 12.6 per 100.

The United States is also a leading manufacturer of small arms. Gun manufacturing has more than doubled since 2009, when President Obama took office, reaching nearly 11 million new guns in 2013.

Several European countries are also major gun producers. European gun manufacturers — including Beretta, Benelli, Sig, Glock, Browning and others — all have U.S. subsidiaries to take advantage of high U.S. demand for small arms.

C. The U.S. stands out for the lack of policy response after mass shootings is correct.

The United Kingdom experienced mass shootings in 1987 and 1996. In the first, a shooter killed 16 people in Hungerford, England, with semi-automatic rifles and a handgun. In the second incident, in Dunblane, Scotland, a shooter killed 16 young children at a school with four pistols. The UK subsequently banned most military-style long guns after the first mass shooting and many handguns after the second.

Canada added similar measures to existing controls after a domestic terrorist attack in 1989, while Australia did the same after a shooting in 1996.

Most advanced democracies have much stricter civilian gun control laws than the United States. These measures typically include a national license requirement, a national gun registry, universal background checks, firearm storage rules and safety training requirements. Others include ammunition restrictions and barriers to domestic abusers owning guns.

None of these rules exist in the United States at the national level and individual U.S. states have generally not gone much farther on their own.

In addition, no other G7 country currently offers a legal right to gun ownership. These countries generally began to restrict or monitor civilian gun ownership starting in the late 19th or early 20th centuries.

D. The U.S. gun death rate is the highest in the G7 is correct.

In 2013, there were 10.64 gun deaths per 100,000 people in the United States, according to internationally comparable data compiled by GunPolicy.org at the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health.

The U.S. gun death rate is nearly four times higher than France’s, the G7 country with the next highest-rate (at 2.83), and more than four times the rate of Canada (2.39). The United Kingdom’s gun death rate is a mere 0.23 per 100,000. That country has very restrictive gun control, added in stages over the course of the past century.

33,636 people were killed by guns in the United States in 2013. That is an average of 92 people killed by guns each day. Perhaps even more astounding, that number is actually slightly higher than the number of people killed in motor vehicle accidents in the United States that year (32,719).

From 2001 to 2013, a total of 153,144 people died in U.S. gun homicides. This compares with 3,046 terrorist attack fatalities in the United States from 2001 to 2014, according to NBC News. 2,977 died on September 11, 2001, and the rest in the years since. That means that gun homicides killed 50 times more people in the United States than did acts of terrorism.

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