Gun Control

Vast Majority of Americans Support Background Checks for Gun Purchases

Carl Bialik in FiveThirtyEight: “In dozens of polls over the past two decades, Americans have been asked if they support expanding background checks for the purchase of firearms … Consistently, at least 70 percent of Americans said they favor background checks. Often, far more do. In October, a CBS News/New York Times poll found that 92 percent of Americans — including 87 percent of Republicans — favor background checks for all gun buyers.”

“The popularity of background checks transcends age, political party, gender, education and even gun ownership. Last month, Quinnipiac University asked Americans whether they support a law requiring background checks for sales at gun shows or online. At least 84 percent of every one of 15 subgroups — including Republicans, men, gun owners and people living in rural areas — said ‘yes.'”

“Summarize all the conflicting views on gun control into one question, as the Pew Research Center has done, and you find a nation evenly split since 2010. Since 1993, Pew has asked the following question: ‘What do you think is more important — to protect the right of Americans to own guns or to control gun ownership?’”


For the First Time, Guns Kill More Americans Than Cars

Vox: “Cars are no longer deadlier than guns in America. For the first time in modern history, the age-adjusted death rate for both guns and car crashes is identical: 10.3 deaths per 100,000 people.”

“The data, previously reported by the Center for American Progress and Christopher Ingraham at the Washington Post, doesn’t show that gun violence is on the rise. Over the past decade or so, gun homicides dropped while gun suicides rose, keeping the rate of gun deaths flat. Instead, the real story is in the dramatic drop in car-related deaths — a trend that continued through 2014, in large part thanks to policy changes meant to make roads and cars safer.”

“Gun violence has been treated much less seriously by lawmakers. Although tough-on-crime laws and mass incarceration policies were in part a response to violent crime, the research shows such measures only partly contributed to the crime drop of the past couple of decades. States and the federal government have passed some gun control measures and looked into a Gun detection System… but many of the measures are riddled with loopholes, considerably weaker than those in other developed countries with lower levels of crime, or were relaxed or allowed to lapse over the decades, such as the assault weapons ban.”

Gun Deaths and Gun Ownership: Is there a Connection?

German Lopez in Vox: “Why is it that for all the outrage and mourning with every mass shooting, nothing seems to change? To understand that, it’s important to grasp not just the stunning statistics about gun ownership and gun violence in the United States, but America’s very unique relationship with guns — unlike that of any other developed country — and how it plays out in our politics to ensure, seemingly against all odds, that our culture and laws continue to drive the routine gun violence that marks American life.”

“The research on this is overwhelmingly clear. No matter how you look at the data, more guns means more gun deaths.”

“This is apparent when you look at state-by-state data within the United States, as this chart from Mother Jones demonstrates:”

Gun ownership tightly correlates with gun violence.


The Number of Americans and the Number of Guns

Philip Bump provides a clear visual on the number of guns owned by Americans.

“Historic data was compiled by Florida State University professor Gary Kleck in his 1991 book Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America and cited by The Truth About Guns in a look at the growth of gun ownership. Kleck’s research was cited by the Congressional Research Service in its 2012 assessment of the number of guns in America (on which Ingraham based his analysis). Thanks to annual reports from the Department of Justice detailing the number of guns made, imported and exported each year, we can extrapolate outward from a number of points to estimate how many guns are in the United States currently.”

“Using Kleck’s numbers through 1987, a National Institute of Justice survey from 1994 (cited by the CRS) and CRS estimates for 1996 and 2007, we can generate a range of possible values for the number of guns in the United States, as above. In every case, the figure is now greater than the number of people in the United States.”

Putting Gun Deaths In Perspective

Margot Sanger-Katz points out how rare gun homicides are in other developed countries.

“Here, where the right to bear arms is cherished by much of the population, gun homicides are a significant public health concern. For men 15 to 29, they are the third-leading cause of death, after accidents and suicides. In other high-income countries, gun homicides are unusual events. The recent Paris attacks killed 130 people, which is nearly as many as die from gun homicides in all of France in a typical year. But even if France had a mass shooting as deadly as the Paris attacks every month, its annual rate of gun homicide death would be lower than that in the United States.”

“The accompanying table shows the mortality rates for gun homicides in a variety of countries, along with a correspondingly likely cause of death in the United States.”

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How Gun Owners Can Avoid Background Check Laws

Citylab: “Gun-control advocates often cite that 40 percent of guns have been obtained by people without a background check … Harvard Injury Control Research Center director Deborah Azrael confirmed the 40 percent figure in terms of people who’ve acquired guns without a background check … Some preliminary data … provides context for this new 40 percent stat:”

  • Roughly 30 percent: Gun owners who did not purchase their most recent gun, instead obtaining it through a transfer (a gift, an inheritance, a swap between friends).
  • Roughly 70 percent: Gun owners who purchased their most recent gun.
  • Among the gun buyers, about 34 percent did not go through a background check.
  • Among the gun owners who got their firearms through a transfer, roughly two-thirds did not go through a background check.

“The ATF puts out annual reports based on the number of guns recovered and traced to their original source. In those reports are maps illustrating how many guns get imported to a state, and which states are doing the exporting. In many of the states where background checks are required, you see a sizable population of guns still making their way in from states with no background check laws.”


A Louder Call For Gun Control Among Americans

Gallup: “Fifty-five percent of Americans say they want laws covering the sale of firearms to be stricter than they are now, a distinct rise of eight percentage points from 2014. Fewer Americans than last year want the laws to be less strict, and the proportion who want the laws to stay the same has also declined slightly.”

Laws Covering the Sale of Firearms -- Americans' Preferences Since 2000

“In a maelstrom of debate about guns, Americans have clear-cut views of at least some aspects of the debate. A majority in 2015 say gun sales should be regulated more strictly than they are now, which represents an uptick from last fall; however, it is still slightly lower than in December 2012, immediately after the Newtown school shootings.”

Most Gun Owners Disagree With NRA on Gun Policy

Christopher Ingraham: “Only a small fraction of the nation’s gun owners are NRA members. Even among NRA members, there is widespread dissent from some key points of the organization’s orthodoxy. And on many gun control issues, the majority of gun owners who aren’t affiliated with the NRA hold opinions closer to those of non-gun owners than to those of NRA members.”

“In recent years the NRA has said it has 5 million dues-paying members. There’s some reason to be skeptical of this figure, but let’s assume 5 million is right.  Those 5 million members only comprise somewhere between 6 and 7 percent of American gun owners. That would imply that the overwhelming majority of American gun owners — over 90 percent of them — do not belong to the NRA.”

In addition, “survey data indicates that non-NRA gun owners hold positions on key gun rights issues that are closer to non-gun owners than they are to NRA members. And even within the universe of NRA members, considerable numbers of gun owners take policy positions that the organization opposes.”

“Taken as a whole, these numbers indicate that there’s a large and largely silent majority of gun owners who find themselves at odds with the NRA on key gun policy issues.”


Amber Phillips in The Washington Post: “It’s now safe to say the NRA is one of the most powerful lobbying organizations of all time. And according to the latest Pew Research poll, Republicans are overwhelming in favor of that.”

“The survey taken July 14-20 on gun rights found that just 13 percent of Republicans think the NRA has too much influence.”


“Gun rights … have magnetized Americans toward the political poles. So Republicans might be naturally lining up with the more conservative factions in their party on everything from gun rights to immigration.”

America Has More Guns Than People

Christopher Ingraham: “A 2012 Congressional Research Service report published exactly one month before the Sandy Hook school shooting put the number of civilian firearms at 242 million in 1996, 259 million in 2000, and 310 million as of 2009.”

“If that 310 million number is correct, it means that the first year of Barack Obama’s presidency was an inflection point: It marked the first time that the number of firearms in circulation surpassed the total U.S. population.”

“Data on gun manufacturing from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives now goes through 2013. If we were to update the CRS numbers with the most recent data, we’d get a chart that looks something like this:”

“Regardless of the actual number of civilian firearms in circulation, there’s no ambiguity around one crucial fact: U.S. gun manufacturers have drastically increased their output during the Obama years. In 2009, according to the ATF, gunmakers produced 5.6 million guns. By 2013 their annual production had just about doubled, up to 10.9 million guns that year.”