Mass shootings occur almost once a day in the US, yet protecting gun rights seems to concern Americans more than increasing controls on guns.
On Thursday, a gunman killed nine people in a community college in Oregon . It was the 994th gun incident in which there were four or more victims (including the shooter) since the start of 2013, according to the website Mass Shooting Tracker .
The data shows that excluding Thursday’s shootings, there have been 375 deaths and 1,089 injuries in 2015 so far. The website began to collect the figures on known incidents just after 20 children were gunned down in December 2012 at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut .
Speaking from Washington after the killing spree, Barack Obama said: “We’ve become numb to this” – and he seems to be right.
December 2014 marked the first time in two decades of polling that those feeling strongly that the rights of Americans to own guns should be bolstered were in the majority, according to Pew Research .
According to the survey, 52% said it was more important to protect Americans’ right to own guns, in contrast with 46% who said it was more important to control ownership of the weapons.
Those supporting gun control were in the majority immediately after the Newtown shootings, with 51% backing it in the US in January 2013. However, that share had dropped by five percentage points by the end of 2014.
Between those two surveys, the proportion agreeing with the idea that gun ownership protects people from becoming victims of crime increased from 48% to 57%.
Part of this seems to be down to misperception. In a 2014 Gallup survey, 63% of Americans said they thought violent crime was increasing despite the rate hovering at near 20-year lows .
The Pew data from December 2014 showed that 63% of those surveyed thought that keeping a gun in the home made them safer, compared with 35% 15 years before. In other words, Americans feel less safe and think a gun might be able to protect them.
Nearly 11m guns were manufactured in the US in 2013, with a total of just below 16m entering circulation after legal imports are included, according to the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The Small Arms Survey from 2011 suggested that the US had by far the highest rate of guns per capita in the world with 89 for every 100 residents . This is far above the 55 per 100 residents in Yemen and nearly twice the proportion of the third-most armed developed country in the world, Switzerland, which has 46 per 100 people in its population.
This does not mean 89% of Americans own a gun . According to a 2013 Pew survey , about 37% of households had one . However, the US has the highest murder rate after Mexico of any OECD country with about two-thirds of those deaths involving a firearm .
But no matter how many mass shootings there have been, it seems the argument that increasing controls on firearm ownership will make Americans safer is clearly not cutting it with the US public.
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