Guns have been an integral part of American history since pre-revolutionary times. For an interesting historical perspective, read Loaded by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. Civilian gun violence at an epidemic level is a fairly recent phenomenon. Consider that between 1968-2011, more Americans died from domestic gunfire (1.4 million) than from all battlefield deaths in US wars since the American Revolution (1.2 million).
Why is gun violence so prominent in the US? That is a difficult question to answer. Lax gun laws and an enormous number of guns among the civilian population certainly contribute to the problem. The US has the highest per capita gun ownership in the world; an estimated 320-400 million guns – more guns than people. We don’t know exactly how many guns there are because the gun rights lobby has blocked Congress from enacting a federal gun registration system.
More than 100,000 Americans are injured or killed by guns every year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 40,000 people were killed by gunfire in 2017 (most recent data available). Two-thirds of the deaths were suicides. Data on gun injuries is harder to come by but experts and police chiefs acknowledge that gun injuries are typically 2-3 x/gun deaths so in 2017 there were over 80,000 gun injuries. An estimated 45,000 people in the US have been paralyzed by gunfire. Short and long-term medical costs for gun violence (including the value of lives lost) are estimated at $229 billion annually.
Black Americans are 10 times more likely than white Americans to die by gun homicide, and black children are 10 times more likely than white children to die from guns, according to a 2017 report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics on gun deaths, 2002-14.
Gun violence takes shape in many different ways in the US – domestic violence, suicide, school shootings, accidental shootings, urban violence, mass shootings, crime and gun trafficking, and political extremism and intimidation.
For more information see:
Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence
Everytown for Gun Safety (Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America)