A lot has been written about gun ownership and gun violence in the United States. One problem with understanding the statistics around this issue is that it can be difficult to find neutral information. Many organizations and people in the United States have strong feelings about gun violence and gun control, thus information is often presented in a way to support only one side of the debate.
Regardless of how you feel about guns, it is indisputable that there is a lot of gun violence in the United States compared to other countries where gun ownership is more restricted. However, Switzerland is a country where gun ownership is also high, yet it does not suffer from the same level of violence as the United States. Anomalies like this make people further question whether the high ownership of guns and the ease of obtaining them in the United States is truly responsible for the high rate of gun-related injuries and deaths or if other factors are at play.
Many people point to the country’s history as some explanation for its attitude toward guns. The Old West was a place of duels and gunslingers. Some of those gunslingers have become American legends such as Butch Cassidy, Jesse James and Billy the Kid. Even the Old West villains are remembered somewhat romantically today. Could these early, seminal tales about the expansion of America be responsible for a society that is more violent than some other Western developed countries?
Hunting is also deeply embedded in the culture in some parts of the United States. People who hunt as a hobby generally have guns at home, and if those guns are not properly secured, it increases the likelihood of an accident. Both American history and the American propensity for hunting can in part explain why guns can be an emotional issue for some people.
What are the facts about ownership of firearms though? Who has them? Just how deadly are guns in American life? Most Importantly, what makes a killer?