Citizens in the United States have purchased nearly 150 million guns over the past decade, as a rise in mass shootings and other violent acts has convinced more people that carrying a gun for self-defense makes them safer.
But the United States is also a country where suicide by firearm is the number one cause of death, and public health experts are already warning that gun deaths are likely to rise.
In the 10 years since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut, the gun-centered movement has gained some political power, while the National Rifle Association has been weakened by infighting and legal battles. At the same time, overall, gun ownership appears to have increased in the United States.
Gun owners are still a minority of the American population. According to survey estimates, nearly one in three Americans own a gun, and less than half live in a home with one.
But the total number of Americans with guns has increased in recent years. According to a large Harvard and Northeastern University study, the number of American gun owners has increased from 20 million to 55 million to 75 million since 2015.
The number of citizens carrying weapons in public is also on the rise. According to a recent study, in 2019, 16 million people said they carried a gun at least once a month, and six million said they did so daily. That’s nearly double the number of people who said in 2015 that they regularly carry a handgun.
misconception of violence
According to Deborah Azrael, a Harvard University professor who specializes in firearms, surveys over the past few decades show that Americans own guns for self-defense more often than for guns used for hunting or other recreational activities. The ratio is increasing. According to a Gallup poll, in 2021, 88% of gun owners cited “protection against crime” as a reason for owning a firearm.
In general, the perception that Americans are prone to crime and violence does not match reality. According to Gallup, a large portion of the population has consistently claimed crime nationwide for nearly three decades, including years when it actually fell sharply. In 2013, a Pew think tank poll showed that most of the public did not know that the US gun homicide rate had fallen by nearly 50% since 1993.
The COVID-19 pandemic, nationwide protests against police violence and the attack on the Capitol have caused gun sales to skyrocket in the United States over the past three years. An estimated five million Americans could become gun owners between 2020 and 2021.
According to a California poll, the main reasons for buying guns when the pandemic began were fear of lawlessness, concerns about inmates serving their sentences and being released from prison, “government going too far” and “government collapse”. Residents.
“Guns are one of the tools when social problems arise,” said Jennifer Carlson, a sociologist specializing in American gun culture. Guardian In an interview in early 2020, when gun sales skyrocketed. For many Americans, guns are “a familiar tool,” according to Carlson. “If you run out of toilet paper, what’s next? It [que esas personas consideran] It is wise to have weapons,” he said.
According to surveys, the majority of American gun owners remain white and male, many of whom live in the South. But sources in both the investigation and the arms sector agree on the demographic change. Women are estimated to account for half of new shoppers since 2019, according to a large survey, and non-white shoppers account for nearly half. Between 2019 and 2021, 5% of black adults in the US will buy a gun for the first time.
no official data
Gun rights advocates have used their political power to prevent the government from keeping official data on the number of Americans with guns or the true number of guns in the hands of citizens. According to some estimates, there are 345 to 393 million weapons. According to the latest figures from the largest employer of firearms companies, there are more than 420 million.
According to Matthew Miller, a professor at Northeastern University who specializes in firearms, while the incredible number of firearms in the U.S. generates a lot of interest, “what matters is how these weapons are distributed among individuals and families,” with There is also an implication that this distribution increases the risk of suicide, homicide or accidental injury by firearms. According to their 2021 study, the acquisition of guns before and during the pandemic means five million more American children now live in a household with guns.
The best way to approach an estimate of gun sales in the United States is through federal criminal background checks on customers, a requirement that licensed firearms dealers must meet (though many states require private individuals to pass background checks). without selling guns to each other).
According to the two most cited estimates (based on background check data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms), the number of guns sold in the United States has approached 150 million since January 2013.
The estimate is likely to be lower than the actual figure. Americans can buy multiple firearms at once with a single background check, and some states allow concealed gun license holders to buy them without a background check.
The actual number of gun sales in the past decade is almost certainly more than 150 million, says Marc Oliva of the National Shooting Sports Foundation. According to his organization’s estimates, at least 152 million weapons have been sold since January 2013.
At the same time, the number of background checks over the past decade has also included some double counting because the same guns are being resold to people, according to Jürgen Brauer, co-founder of the firearms statistics firm Small Arms Analytics. Brauer estimates that the total number of guns sold in the U.S. this decade will reach about 164 million by the end of December.
Gun deaths have risen in recent years, with the national gun homicide rate rising sharply to 35% in 2020. But a study that examined increases in gun sales during the pandemic and increases in firearm homicides by state found no clear correlational evidence.
According to preliminary data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 21,000 homicides and more than 26,000 suicides involving firearms will occur nationwide in 2021.
Translation by Francisco de Zarate