Analysis: Why gun controls are off the agenda in America

Updated 11:30 AM EST, Sat December 15, 2012

Story highlights

Another month, another shooting spree in in the U.S.

But after previous murderous rampage, American attitudes don't change much

Americans are most heavily armed people per capita, with Yemen a distant second

Mann: World thinks of U.S. when apparently ordinary people use guns for grotesque violence

Watch CNN’s LIVE TV coverage of the Connecticut elementary school shooting as the story continues to unfold.

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What is it about Americans and guns?

How much time do you have?

“I can tell you that I don’t think there’s any other developed country in the world that has remotely the problem we have,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said after the shooting rampage at a Colorado theater in July killed 12 people.

Now, a school shooting in Connecticut claims 20 young children and six adults, possibly more once the full story is known. In between, there have been other shootings including at a shopping mall earlier in the week in Oregon.

Opinion: Now is the time to talk guns, mental illness

There are an estimated 270 million guns in the hands of civilians in the United States, making Americans the most heavily armed people in the world per capita. Yemen, a tribal nation with no history of strong central government or the rule of law, comes in a distant second.

From Washington to the well-stocked shelves of Walmart stores nationwide, guns are regarded in the United States as a commonplace if controversial consumer item for millions of law-abiding hunters, collectors and citizens concerned about their safety. They are also in the hands of thousands of killers, too; a Washington-based anti-gun lobby says those guns shoot more than 100,000 people a year. In 2010, there were more than 30,000 deaths caused by firearms when the number of homicides, suicides and accidental deaths are tallied.

Read more: Obama treads carefully on gun ban

America’s collective memory – of the Wild West in the 1800s, the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King half a century ago and rampages like Columbine in 1999 or Virginia Tech in 2007 – is marked time and time again by guns.

“It’s undeniable,” writes Clayton Cramer, author of “Armed America: the Remarkable Story of How and Why Guns Became as American as Apple Pie.” “Guns are at the center of much of America’s history, its legends, and its horrors.”

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