What kind of people are gun owners

Sometimes, when things get particularly tragic, only that helps Comic reliefas the Americans call it. This comical relief is supposed to loosen up a situation with a joke. Like the satire website The Onion, which ran after the mass murder in Las Vegas: "'There is no way to prevent it', says the only nation where this happens again and again." A man there murdered 58 people and injured more than 500 when he fired from the window of his hotel suite in Las Vegas at visitors to a country festival.

More mass shootings than days a year

But that's just the sad high point of the current year: 2017 has barely started when a man at a New Year's party in a club in Dallas, Texas, shot a guest and injured three others. On the same day there was a shooting in Florida with seven injured. So the year goes on: The Gun Violence Archive lists a mass shootout 411 times. That means: American shooters killed or injured at least four people at a time 411 times. 531 people died and 1,657 people were injured.

In order for such numbers to come about at all, weapons are needed. Unlike in most other countries, these are easy to get in the USA. The right to own and carry weapons dates back to the early days of the United States and was formulated in the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1791.

Three percent of Americans own half of the guns

In the rich industrialized countries, the US ranks first in terms of gun ownership per capita. Compared to Germany it is 16 times more, compared to Great Britain 25 times more. These numbers come from Gun Policy, a University of Sydney project that estimates the rate of legal and illegal weapons:

But gun ownership is not evenly distributed among the population in these countries. For example the USA:

This is suggested by a study by Harvard and Northeastern Universities that examines the gun inventory in the United States for 2015. The scientists also speak of Great owners, people who have an extremely large number of weapons. It is estimated that 7.7 million Americans have between eight and 140 guns.

More guns, more deaths

More guns go hand in hand with more gunshot wounded deaths. This connection can be clearly shown internationally. And not only in the USA, but also in many other countries, such as Switzerland, but at a much lower level. The United States is a gross outlier.

The number of deaths in the US from pistols or revolvers relates not only to murders but also to suicides. More than half of gun victims killed themselves:

After every mass murder the demand comes again: The right to own weapons should be restricted. But nothing was changed. Neither under US President Bill Clinton after the Columbine High School massacre, which left 15 dead, nor under Barack Obama, after the massacre in an Orlando nightclub, which left 50 dead. And even now, most likely nothing will change. This is also because society in the USA is divided. At least that is what surveys by PEW suggest, who have wanted to know from people for about ten years whether they are in favor of restricting gun rights or for liberal law. Almost 20 years ago, the proponents of stricter controls were clearly ahead, but this is no longer so clear. The two perspectives are more or less the same:

Australia as a model as a way out?

Australia could serve as a model for amending the arms law. On April 28, 1996 a man shot dead 35 people there, ten days later the politicians passed a law regulating gun ownership. Part of this was a buyback program in which the state bought and destroyed weapons from private individuals.

Since then, the killing rate by firearms, the name given to deliberate killings per 100,000 inhabitants, has fallen by about 79 percent. A development that observers also expect in the USA if there should be stricter gun laws. For comparison: In 2014 there were 4.4 homicides per 100,000 people in the USA and one such crime per 100,000 people in Australia.

*) Editor's note: For Germany, the number of weapons per 100 inhabitants is given as being quite high at 32. This figure was calculated by the Gun Policy Project of the Sydney School Of Public Health and is based on the number of weapons in Germany: around 25 million weapons in total, five million of which are legal weapons and 20 million illegal ones. However, the Federal Ministry of the Interior was unable to confirm the number of illegal weapons when asked by SZ.