America’s Guns Problem: Figures Exceed US Population

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Although it is tough to know how many guns United States has but it is clear that the figure has exceeded the country’s own population.

As things stand, there is no way to exactly find out the number of guns people own in the United States. Most of the estimates are taken from federal records of firearms that are manufactured, imported and exported by the local gunmakers.

One month before the Sandy Hook school shooting incident, a Congressional Research Service report estimated the number of civilian firearms to be at 242 million in 1996, 259 million in 2000 and 310 million in 2009.

Firearms surpass the U.S. population

The survey from 2009 was the first time that firearms in circulation surpassed the country’s population which makes for a grim reading for a country that is currently involved in a serious global crackdown on terrorism.

Taking gun exports out of the mix and adding up new guns, in 2013, there are roughly 357 firearms in the United States – 40 million more than people. Although this is just a rough estimate, the numbers are really surprising to say the least. Moreover, these numbers do not include firearms that enter or exit the country illegally.

Philip J. Cook of the Duke University thinks that the estimates don’t properly account for such an attrition and claims that around one percent of American gun stocks are either lost, destroyed or broken each year. These estimates have been recorded since 1899 and if every situation is included in those estimates, it would mean that since 2011, United States has somewhere around 245 million firearms.

In 2007, the global Small Arms Survey estimated the number of civilian firearms in the United States to be somewhere around 270 million. However, according to Gary Kleck who is a criminologist at the Florida State University, every survey model has its shortcomings which is why an exact number can never be pinpointed.

“Guns are simple machines made of extremely durable materials,” he said, “yet are both dangerous and valuable enough that their owners would take more-than-average care to avoid losing them.”

However, if the pattern is observed further, it is clear to see that under the Obama administration, US gun manufacturers have really thrived and increased their production. There is no ambiguity about this. In 2009, gunmakers were producing around 5.6 million guns but by 2013, that number had doubled to around 10.9 million guns.

This has been termed as the “Obama effect” by Kleck. High-profile shooting incidents and discourse on changing gun laws gives gun owners a lot of motivation to buy more guns and non-gun owners extra incentive to buy a piece. All this has been happening even though the Congress has not passed any changes to the firearm legislation since 2008.

Per-capita gun homicide rate falls

Another important stat that should be noted is that the per-capita gun homicide rate has fallen by nearly half over the same time period of the number of guns that has increased since early to mid 90s. This is indeed a unique feature of the United States since places (around the world) with more guns have more gun homicides.

These two facts are the reason why the contemporary gun policy debate has raged on without any outcome so far. Those who defend gun rights can take up the falling homicide rate due to rising gun numbers and provide firearms acquisition as an important step towards ending gun violence. Gun control advocates on the other hand, blame the relation between gun ownership and gun crime and push for ironclad reforms on gun ownership.

Clearly, each side has valid arguments which is probably why debates between both sides have been passionate and vitriolic at the same time. For this reason, the most modest of policy proposals fail to be heard and given a proper look.

Back in 2013, a proposal to introduce a mechanism to expand background checks to most gun sales failed to be approved. The idea was to ensure guns to be kept out of the reach of criminals and mentally ill people.

Obama himself was very angry that the attempt had failed and called the day the move failed as a shameful day for Washington. To the president’s exasperation, the senators were not bothered about public opinion and failed to offer worthy explanations for why they voted down measures that were very fair.

The National Rifle Association was also not spared by Obama  while the Republicans were equally blamed for caving to the pressure.

“We can do more if Congress gets its act together,” Obama said. “And if this Congress refuses to listen to the American people and enact common-sense gun legislation, then the real impact is going to have to come from the voters.”

The statement of the chief lobbyist for NRA, Chris W.Cox clearly shows that the decision makers are least bothered by making any changes to the gun law.

“This amendment would have criminalized certain private transfers of firearms between honest citizens, requiring lifelong friends, neighbors and some family members to get federal government permission to exercise a fundamental right or face prosecution,” he said.

However, it appears that there are people who are getting more and more vocal about the hurdles created by National Rifle Association. Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton has recently proposed abolishing legislation that protects gun makers and dealers from being sued by shooting victims.

This announcement came following a deadly shooting at the Umqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon last week in which eight students and one teacher lost their lives.

She told a rally in New Hampshire: “I will try every way I can to get those guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.

Today, opinion is divided on gun control in United States. However, the fact that many people are lobbying against the power NRA enjoys, gives hope to many gun control advocates that in the coming months, the country might be able to make laws that will be beneficial to all the major stakeholders, the most important of which is the American public.

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