How Likely Are Americans To Be Killed By Guns? These Statistics About Firearms In The U.S. Are Devastating
On the morning after the most recent episode in a long history of gun violence in the United States, one question is on millions of minds: How likely are Americans to be killed by guns? The answer speaks volumes about the capacity for devastation when a country fails to regulate ownership of deadly weapons — and the massacre on the Las Vegas Strip on Sunday night illustrates it further.
Late Sunday night, a crowd of 22,000 people gathered for the Route 91 Harvest Festival, a three-day country music festival taking place on the Las Vegas Strip. Around 10 p.m., a shooter opened fire on the concert from his room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel. According to a press release by the Las Vegas Police Department, more than 400 people were transported to local hospitals and at least 50 died in the violence, making it deadlier than the Pulse nightclub shooting last June. Early Monday morning, police confirmed that the shooter had died as well, although the investigation into his motivations is still ongoing.
The Las Vegas Strip shooting is merely the latest in a series of gun-related massacres, from the 1966 University of Texas tower shooting to the 2015 San Bernardino attack. It's long past time for Americans to acknowledge the reams of data showing that this violence is related to the country's lax gun laws — but don't take my word for it. Here are the devastating facts about firearm use in the United States.
1Americans Are Far More Likely To Die By Gun
In 2016, a study published in the American Journal of Medicine found that although the United States has roughly similar rates of nonlethal violence compared to other countries, the rate of lethal violence is far higher, and most of this can be traced back to gun-related homicides. In fact, Americans are 10 times more likely overall to be killed by a gun than citizens of 22 other high-income nations.
When researchers broke this down, the evidence was no less incriminating. According to the study, people in the United States are 25 times more likely to be violently killed with a gun, and six times more likely to die in a gun accident. Study author Erin Grinshteyn partly attributed this to the perception of "lethal intent." Basically, people are more likely to react violently when they expect others to be armed as well.
2They're More Likely To Use Firearms To Commit Suicide
In the same study, researchers found that Americans are also eight times more likely to commit suicide with a gun than people in other countries, and research from the Harvard Injury Control Center has suggested that gun availability is a direct risk factor for youth suicide in the United States. The more people own guns in a state, the higher that state's suicide rate tends to be. (The report showed that the same is true of homicide as well; more guns means more gun-related deaths.)
Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported in 2016 that while the overall percentage of suicides by firearm has decreased, the actual number of people who kill themselves in this way increased from about 16,600 in 1999 to more than 21,000 in 2014.
3More Than 10,000 Are Murdered Each Year
According to the Department of Justice, firearm homicides have hovered around 11,000 since 2001, or about 3.5 in every 100,000 people. In comparison, Portugal and Greece have less than one gun death per 100,000 people, and that's counting all firearm-related deaths — not just homicide.
4Gun Deaths Occur Almost As Often As Vehicular Deaths
According to the Washington Post, the CDC's mortality data in 2014 brought about a disturbing comparison. "In 2014, the age-adjusted death rate for both firearms (including homicides, suicides and accidental deaths) and motor vehicle events (car crashes, collisions between cars and pedestrians, etc) stood at 10.3 deaths per 100,000 people," the Post explained.
The good news is that this is partly driven by falling vehicular death rates. The bad news is that it's also driven by rising gun death rates, led by a spike in firearm suicides.
5The Story Is Different For People Of Color
According to an analysis of CDC data by Brookings in 2015, gun deaths are dramatically influenced by ethnicity and gender. Black men account for nearly 35 deaths per 100,000, and among black men between 20 and 29 years old, that number jumps to 90. Most white firearm-related deaths are suicides, but among black Americans, homicides are more common.
At the same time, gender also influences the likelihood of gun violence. According to The New York Times, it's the third-leading cause of death for men between ages 15 and 29.
6Mass Shootings Are On The Rise
If you've been feeling like the "lone gunman" has constantly been in the news lately, you're not alone. It's a difficult concept to quantify — at what point does murder become a massacre? — but in 2014, the FBI released a report on "active shooter" incidents, and it showed an increase in mass shootings since 2000. At the time, the deadliest shooting had taken place at Virginia Tech, where 32 were killed and 17 wounded.
7Guns Affect Domestic Violence
Although men are more likely to die by firearm overall, women are disproportionately the victims of domestic gun violence. According to a report by the Associated Press, 760 Americans were killed on average by their spouses, ex-spouses, or dating partners between 2006 and 2014. Nearly 75 percent of those victims were the current wives or girlfriends of the shooter.
8Children Die In Gun Accidents Every Other Day
A joint analysis by the Associated Press and USA Today network found that in the United States, children died in gun-related accidents at an average of every other day. According to their findings, three-year-olds are the most common shooters and victims, and it usually happens at the child's home.
9Assault Weapon & Magazine Use Has Spiked
In 1994, the federal Assault Weapons Ban restricted civilian use of certain semi-automatic firearms and large magazines. That law expired in 2004. In a 2016 report, the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City compared the effect of assault weapons on gun violence, and the result is devastating. According to the organization, shooters using these weapons killed and injured 301 percent more than those with non-assault weapons.
Unfortunately, researchers also found that assault weapon and large magazine use has risen since the ban expired, with 38 incidents between 2004 and 2016.
Clearly, the United States is an outlier when it comes to gun violence, not to mention ownership, in high-income countries. How many mass shootings, murders, accidents, and suicides will it take before legislation is passed to protect American citizens? People may kill people, but guns make it much easier.