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America’s gun culture in eight charts

The worst mass shooting in the United States has once again raised questions about gun ownership and whether there should be tougher controls.

About 40% of Americans say they own a gun or live in a household with one, according to a 2017 survey, and the rate of murder or manslaughter by firearm is the highest in the developed world.

How does the US compare with other countries?

More than 11,000 people in the US were killed by a gun in 2016 – representing about two-thirds of all homicides, which include murder and manslaughter.

Who owns the world’s guns?

While it is difficult to know exactly how many guns civilians own around the world, by every estimate the US with around 270 million is far out in front. Switzerland and Finland are the European countries with the most guns per person.

How do US gun deaths break down?

There have been more than 90 mass shootings – killings involving four or more victims – in the US since 1982. But the overall number of people killed in mass shootings each year represents only a tiny percentage of the total number.

There were nearly twice as many suicides involving firearms in 2015 as there were murders caused by guns, and the rate has been increasing in recent years. Indeed suicide by firearm accounts for almost half of all suicides in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

A 2016 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found there was a strong relationship between higher levels of gun ownership in a state and higher firearm suicide rates for both men and women.

Las Vegas attack

The Las Vegas attack was the worst in recent US history – and the three shootings with the highest number of casualties have all happened within the past 10 years.

What types of guns kill Americans?

Military-style assault weapons have been blamed for some of the major mass shootings such as the attack in an Orlando nightclub and at the Sandy Hook School in Connecticut. The police said dozens of rifles had been recovered from the scene of the Las Vegas shooting.

A few US states have banned assault weapons, which were totally restricted for a decade until 2004. However most murders caused by guns involve handguns, according to FBI data.

How much do guns cost to buy?

For those from countries where guns are not widely owned, it can be a surprise to discover that they are relatively cheap to purchase in the US.

Handguns, which were reportedly among Paddock’s arsenal discovered in his hotel room, can cost from as little $200 (£151) – as much as a Chromebook laptop for example – and can be bought from gun shops.

Assault rifles like the ones also reportedly found in Paddock’s room can cost from around $1500 (£1,132).

Given that 23 weapons were found at the hotel and further 19 at his home, Paddock may have spent more than $70,000 (£52,800) on weapons and accessories, such as tripods, scopes, ammunition and cartridges.

Who supports gun control?

US public opinion on the banning of handguns has changed dramatically over the last 60 years. This dataset is incomplete but it shows that support has shifted over time and now a significant majority opposes a ban on handguns, according to polling by Gallup.

However some controls are widely supported by people across the political divide – such as restricting the sale of guns to people who are mentally ill, or on “watch” lists.

In his latest comment on the shootings, President Donald Trump said he would be “talking about gun laws as times goes by”. The White House said now is not the time to be debating gun control.

His predecessor, Barack Obama, struggled to get any new gun control laws onto the statute books, because of Republican opposition.

Who opposes gun control?

The National Rifle Association (NRA) campaigns against all forms of gun control in the US and argues that more guns make the country safer.

It is among the most powerful special interest lobby groups in the US, with a substantial budget to influence members of Congress on gun policy.

Image copyright AFP

In total about one in five US gun owners say they are members of the NRA – and it has especially widespread support from Republican-leaning gun owners, according to Pew Research.

In terms of lobbying, the NRA officially spends about $3m per year to influence gun policy.

The chart shows only the recorded contributions to lawmakers published by the Senate Office of Public Records. The NRA spends millions more elsewhere, such as on supporting the election campaigns of political candidates who oppose gun controls.

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