Every year, between 36,000 and 40,175 Americans are killed by guns (depending on which statistics one accepts), an average of at least one hundred a day. Thirty-seven percent of U.S households own one or more firearms. Among western democracies, we lead the world in gun ownership and deaths per capita.
I compared us to our northern neighbor, Canada, and our ally, the UK in rates of gun ownership and deaths. The estimated number of civilian firearms per 100 people for the UK is 8.3. The number for Canada is 34.7. For the U.S., it’s 120.5—in the U.S., we have more guns than people. Guns deaths per 100,000 people in the UK is .23. In Canada, it’s 2.00. The U.S.? 12.21.
The consistent ratio between gun ownership and gun deaths holds throughout the world—the more guns, the more people who die by guns. To reduce the number of gun deaths in our country, we must reduce the number of guns.
Defenders of the U.S. gun culture argue that the Second Amendment to the Constitution enshrines the right of Americans to own firearms. That amendment reads: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” My reading of that text is that the right to keep and bear arms is contingent on the needs for a militia. I don’t believe the original drafters intended to grant gun ownership to any and all with no limits.
Gun culture supporters argue that firearms have always been part of American daily life, ever since we required them on our own frontier in pioneer days. My answer is that it’s time we change our culture. Better that than losing 40,000 lives every year to gunfire.