Washington Week

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By the Numbers: Guns in America

By Jenna Goff
Washington Week Fellow

Just one week after 49 people were gunned down in a mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub, the Senate blocked four measures that would have toughened the nation’s gun control laws. These proposals came as a response to the attack at Pulse Nightclub – the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. We crunch the numbers behind the ongoing gun control debate.

Representatives participate in a sit-in on the House floor demanding a vote on gun control. [Twitter / Gregory Meeks]


How many guns are there in America?

The Pew Research Center estimates there are between 270 million to 310 million guns in the country. This number has been increasing each year exponentially. In its most recent report, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) disclosed that 10,844,792 firearms (including pistols, rifles, and shotguns) were manufactured in 2013 marking a record high for U.S. gun production.


How many U.S. citizens own guns?

A Gallup poll conducted in 2015 reported that 41% of Americans have a gun on their property. This percentage has remained fairly steady over the years; it reached a peak 51% in 1993 and a low 34% in 1999. Determining the number of Americans with guns in their homes has proved difficult due to the nature of a poll’s questioning and unreliability of responders’ answers.


Why do Americans own guns?

In 2015, 60% of Americans listed personal safety and protection as their primary reason for owning a gun. This is up 34% from data collected by Pew in 1999 when hunting was considered the main motive for gun ownership. Hunting now trails personal safety with 36% percent of the vote.


Who sells guns and where?

ATF reports there are 137,721 actively licensed firearm dealers in the U.S. – 56,580 are retail gun stores, 57,990 are collectors, and 8,079 are pawn shops. There are only 38,015 supermarkets in America.


How many people die each year from firearm injuries?

The CDC reports 33,636 Americans died as a result of gun injuries in 2013. That’s almost equivalent to the 33,804 people who are killed each year in motor vehicle accidents.


How many Americans support gun control measures?

According to the latest CNN/ORC poll conducted after the Orlando shooting, 55% of Americans support stricter gun laws. It’s the highest level of support since the poll was taken in January 2013, just one month after 20 children and six adult staff were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.


What is the FBI doing to track gun sales to dangerous individuals?

In the first six months of 2016, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has conducted 11,698,006 background checks for firearm purchases. In 2015, NICS completed 23,141,970 background checks – the highest number for any year on record. The agency searches a database of 14,742,624 active records for each person applying to buy a weapon. The majority of individuals prohibited from purchasing firearms are undocumented immigrants (6,806,469) and those with adjudicated mental health (4,410,670). Since its inception in 1998,

NICS has denied 1,323,172 gun sales as a result of the background checks. This is only 0.5% of all background checks performed.