There are more firearms in the United States than there are people.
It’s estimated we have over 400 million firearms in private ownership. That is 120 guns per 100 citizens.
Around 850 million civilian firearms are in circulation worldwide, and 46% of those are in the U.S.
The U.S. sees around 40,000 gun-related deaths a year, which is 100 gun-related deaths every day.
A recent Pew Research Center survey revealed that 48% of Americans view gun violence as a serious issue. Many link gun ownership with gun violence, which helps explain why 53% of Americans favor stricter gun laws.
Setting aside whether there is correlation, causation or both between the volume of guns in circulation and the number of gun-related deaths, we need to take a deeper look at the numbers.
Various gun control laws have been proposed over the years, but ultimately little is being done to address two of the primary reasons behind firearm-related deaths.
It would behoove policymakers to dig into the numbers and make sure that proposed solutions match the problem.
According to analysis of 2019 CDC data, 60.3% (23,941) of the annual gun-related deaths are suicides, while 36.3% (14,414) are homicides and the remaining 3.4% (1,352) are unintentional, legal intervention or undetermined.
Right off the bat, our statistics are dominated by suicide. More than 47,000 deaths by suicide took place in 2019, which means that roughly half of this total was firearm related.
To begin to address gun-related deaths, we should start with the number one cause: the suicide epidemic we have failed to take seriously for over a generation.
In addition to suicide, not enough attention is being paid to gun deaths in situations of domestic violence.
Gallup reported in 2014, that six in 10 Americans believe that a gun in the home makes the family safer. This doesn’t seem to align with reality. Around 1 million women alive today have been shot, or shot at, by an intimate partner, while 4.5 million have been threatened with a gun by a partner.
This is unacceptable.
Firearms are used in half of all intimate partner homicides. Plus, half of all shootings involving three or more victims are linked to intimate partner violence. If a gun is accessible during a domestic violence situation, then the chance of homicide increases by 500%.
Countless family members, friends and neighbors who attempted to intervene in domestic violence cases have been killed.
Domestic violence likely accounts for a much larger portion of gun-related homicides because the number of such incidents are underreported since government statistics do not link these deaths to domestic violence.
It is time that we invest more in helping women and families address this type of violent crime. Domestic violence of any kind should not be tolerated.
While this country has been divided on the issue of firearm ownership for decades, it is time that we have a serious discussion about gun violence – the causes and cures.
The problem is more than the existence and ownership of firearms. We need to consider what is motivating people to pull the trigger and to develop solutions based on that. Therefore, we need better data on the subject.
If all the guns in the U.S. were to disappear tomorrow, we would still be plagued with the underlying causes of the violence. Without addressing motivating factors, we would simply trade bullet holes for stab wounds.
President Joe Biden’s recent proposal on gun crime and public safety addresses several problems, but it will do very little to curb gun deaths related to suicide or domestic violence.
Going after rogue gun dealers and developing employment opportunities are great ideas, but they are not enough. We need to start by taking a better look at the problem.
First, the public needs to insist that officials compile more accurate, comprehensive data for evaluation so that we can make sure we are targeting the correct motivations behind gun-related deaths.
Then, we need to target social services so they can better address these issues at the local level in order to intervene before a handgun ever comes out of the drawer.
Why, as one of the most prosperous nations on earth, are we plagued with suicide, domestic violence and despair, and how do these translate into gun violence?
That is the fundamental question we must ask and answer.