When I read of the number of Americans killed by firearms every year and the number of weapons we own, I’m repeatedly shocked. More than 15,000 people died by gunfire in the U.S. in 2019. That was up from almost 11,000 in 2018.
And our rate of gun ownership is the highest in the world. Forty percent of Americans say they own a gun. Americans own some 390 million firearms. That means that most gun owners have multiple guns—we have more guns than we have people. In the U.S., our firearm ownership rate is 120.5 per 100 people.
The ratio between gun ownership and gun deaths is relatively constant worldwide: the more guns, the more deaths. Our gun death rate in 2017, the most recent year for which I can find statistics, was 12.2 per 100,000 people with an ownership rate of 120.5 per 100 people. Compare us with our neighbor to the north. Canada has 34.7 guns per 100 people and an annual gun death rate of 2 per 100,000 people.
Americans are forever telling me that guns are at the heart of American culture. Ever since our pioneer days when guns were a necessity, guns have been an intrinsic element of our daily life.
There’s no question that they’re right. My answer: is it better to nourish our culture or to change it and prevent an annual death rate now approaching 20,000?