Seven facts about gun violence in America
America’s latest mass shooting incident, at a church in Texas on Sunday, has left at least 26 people dead and 20 injured, making it the worst in the state’s history .
The frequency of this kind of event risks anaesthetising us to the number of people who die from shootings in one of the world’s most developed nations. The numbers are staggering.
1. Texas is often at the frontline of mass shootings
In 2015, there were 45 deaths from Texan mass shootings. In 2016, the state saw 39 victims. This year, the running total is 57.
While individual large tragedies may skew the data for particular years, Texas is consistently bad for gun violence.
After the Las Vegas attack, Nevada has suffered the most deaths from mass shootings this year – at 59 deaths – but it is also worst when we make the number proportional to a state’s population.
It being a small state, Nevada has now had 20 mass shooting deaths per one million of its people in 2017 – with the next highest rates seen in Mississippi (7.7 per million) and Kansas (3.8 per million).
Having 27.9m people, the large state of Texas has seen mass shootings claim the lives of 2.1 people for every million of its population.
Map: America’s mass shootings hotspots
2. The Las Vegas mass shooting wasn’t the only mass shooting in America that day
While the scale of the attack in Las Vegas on 1 October is unparalleled, it wasn’t the only mass shooting to occur in the US that day.
Some 13,000 miles away in Lawrence, just outside the University of Kansas in Kansas, two men and a woman were killed and a further two people injured in a mass shooting incident.
While none of the three victims were students at the university, all were in their early twenties, with one of the young men recently having become a father, according to the local press.
Mass shootings in America – defined by the website Gun Violence Archive as an event where at least four people are shot – are now an everyday event.
The Las Vegas attack makes October the most deadly month for mass shootings this year – although not by as much as some may think, given the scale of the atrocity.
The scale of US mass shootings in 2017
3. One major mass shooting every two months
This year’s deaths follow a depressing trend, according to data gathered by the Gun Violence Archive.
Some 346 people are estimated to have been killed in American mass shootings this year. This compared to 432 in 2016, and 369 in 2015 – more than one person for every day of the year.
When it comes to major mass shootings (where more than four people are killed), there have been an average of just 72 days between events during the period of 2010 to 2017 .
This is a far more frequent rate when compared to the average gap of 162 days from 2000 to 2010, according to data compiled by Mother Jones.
The two worst mass shooting events – October’s Las Vegas shooting and the Pulse nightclub atrocity in Orlando – have occurred in the last two years.
More than a person a day have been killed in US mass shootings in recent years
4. Firearms sales go up after mass shootings
Data from the FBI shows us that there have been 270 million firearms background checks since November 1998 – and the number is increasing as time goes by.
Such background checks, initiated through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), do not represent the number of firearms sold – but they do give us an idea as to interest in buying guns across the country.
In an alarming pattern identified by the New York Times, the fear of firearms restrictions is a significant driver of gun sales – with mass shootings and other attacks being another, although to a lesser extent.
For example, December 2015 saw the highest number of background checks to date – at 3.3m. This followed the San Bernardino terror attack in November, in which 14 people died and after which Obama called for tighter restrictions on the purchase of assault rifles.
Firearm checks peak after attacks and potential restrictions
5. 270m guns for 320m people
In 2007, the Small Arms Survey estimated that there were between 250m and 290m civilian-owned firearms in the US – a rate of around 90 per 100 people.
This was the highest rate of civilian guns for any of the 178 countries that were surveyed and was ahead of Yemen (55 guns per 100 civilians) in second place by quite some distance.
Higher rates of gun ownership correlate strongly with occurrences of mass shootings with the US emerging at the top of tree when it came to mass shootings per head in a study by Jaclyn Schildkraut of the State University of New York.
Countries with more guns have more mass shootings
6. Mass shootings are just the tip of the gun deaths iceberg
Between 2001 and 2013, 406,496 people died as a result of gun violence in America according to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
Of this number the majority – 237,052 – were actually suicides as opposed to homicides.
Homicides accounted for 153,144 deaths over this period while the rest comprised 8,383 accidental deaths, 4,778 deaths from police shootings and 3,200 where the cause couldn’t be determined.
In this context, mass shootings make up a comparatively small proportion of overall gun deaths in the US, accounting for around three per cent of homicides in 2017 so far according to the Gun Violence Archive.
Suicides account for most US gun deaths
7. Americans can’t agree on gun control
The debate over gun rights and restrictions is not a new one in America – and it’s opened up every time another mass shooting catches the public’s attention.
The latest polling from the Pew Research Centre shows that 47 per cent of Americans support protecting gun rights – compared to 51 per cent who support gun control (6 April 2017).
This polling has tightened over the last two decades – when 65 per cent were in favour of gun control in May 1999 – ensuring that the debate continues to rage on.
The gun debate is anything but settled
At the end of 2016, The Telegraph published a piece called “The face of America’s gun problem” which aimed to document all 432 victims of American mass shootings in 2016.
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