How US gun culture compares with the world in five charts
Updated 11:07 AM ET, Fri March 9, 2018
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(CNN)The United States. Home to liberty, the pursuit of happiness and the most mass shootings in the world.
America's unique relationship to gun ownership -- enshrined as a right in its constitution -- is also in the middle of an emotional and divisive debate about the meaning of the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. Twenty-seven words that give its citizens the right to own guns and also, in the views of many critics, helped usher in a culture that sees more of its own people killed by fellow citizens armed with guns than in any other high-income nation in the world.
Gun-related deaths unfold in tragic circumstances across the country daily, with more than 1,800 people killed by guns this year alone, according to Gun Violence Archive, a not-for-profit group. But it is often mass shootings that reignite the debate over gun control in the US and that shine the spotlight on its position as a global outlier.
Here's a look at how America's gun culture compares to the rest of the world.
The number of firearms available to American civilians is estimated at around 310 million, according to a 2009 National Institute of Justice (NIJ) report.
India is home to the second-largest civilian firearm stockpile, estimated at 46 million.
The most updated estimates -- now more than a decade old -- place the worldwide civilian gun cache at around 650 million. According to Switzerland-based Small Arms Survey, the number of civilian guns has most likely risen since 2007. Firearm production continues to proliferate worldwide, outweighing the effects that gun destruction might have.
According to the Small Arms Survey, the exact number of civilian-owned firearms is impossible to pinpoint because of a variety of factors including arms that go unregistered, the illegal trade and global conflict.
Americans own the most guns per person in the world, about four in 10 saying they either own a gun or live in a home with guns, according to a 2017 Pew Center study. Forty-eight percent of Americans said they grew up in a house with guns.
According to the survey, a majority (66%) of US gun owners own multiple firearms, with nearly three-quarters of gun owners saying they couldn't imagine not owning one.
Yemen, home to the world's second-largest gun-owning population per capita (and a country in the throes of a three-year-old civil conflict) trails significantly behind the US in terms of ownership.
When it comes to gun massacres, the US is an anomaly.
There are more public mass shootings in America than in any other country in the world.
On Wednesday, Nikolas Cruz, 19, arrived at the halls of his former school in Parkland, Florida. Armed with a rifle, he allegedly carried out a massacre that left 17 people dead.
In October 2017, 64-year-old gunman Stephen Paddock fired into crowds gathered at the Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas. Fifty-eight people were killed and more than 500 people were injured. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.
In 2016, an attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando left 49 people dead. In 2012, Adam Lanza went on a shooting spree in Newtown, Connecticut, killing his mother before murdering 26 students and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School; in 2007, 32 people were killed in the Virginia Tech massacre.
Such massacres have prompted debates about gun control, but they also increase demand for guns. And regulations covering the sale of firearms are looser now that they were a year ago.
In February 2017, US President Donald Trump signed a measure that scrapped an Obama-era regulation aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of some severely mentally ill people.
The original rule was part of a series of moves taken by the Obama administration to try and curb gun violence after other efforts failed to advance in Congress.
Globally, restrictive gun laws have proven to make a difference in curbing massacres.
In Australia, for example, four mass shootings occurred between 1987 and 1996. After those incidents, public opinion turned against gun ownership and Parliament passed stricter gun laws. Australia hasn't had a mass shooting since.
The US has one of the highest rates of death by firearm in the developed world, according to World Health Organization data.
Our calculations based on OECD data from 2010 show that Americans are 51 times more likely to be killed by gunfire than people in the United Kingdom.
Most American gun owners (two-thirds) say a major reason they own a gun is for their personal protection, according to the Pew study. However, the majority of America's firearm-related deaths are attributed to self-harm.
Gun-related suicides are eight times higher in the US than in other high-income nations.
Globally, the US sees fewer gun-related murders than many of its southern neighbors.
According to the Small Arms Survey, El Salvador is currently home to the most gun-related murders in the world (excluding active war-zones) with guns killing more than 90 people for every 100,000 of population.
From 2010-2015, Honduras saw the highest averages of gun-related homicides, with guns killing 67 out of every 100,000 people there.
Venezuela and El Salvador are close behind over the same five-year period, with 52 and 49 gun-related deaths, respectively, for every 100,000 of population.
The US rate over that period is 4.5 gun-related homicides per 100,000 people. US law enforcement agencies are not required to report on gun killings by police. Often, such incidents are recorded as "justifiable homicides," and may or may not be included in official homicide statistics, according to the Small Arms Survey.