America's deadly fascination with guns

"Why do we keep letting this happen?" US President Joe Biden asks after at least 19 elementary school children and two teachers were shot dead in Texas by a teenage gunman on May 24. The answer lies in a fatal mix of gun numbers, politics and history.

A family grieves outside of the SSGT Willie de Leon Civic Center following the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School on May 24, 2022.
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The issue of gun violence might be a complex, emotional and deeply polarising issue in the United States, but at least one part of the problem is relatively straightforward: America has, by far, the most incidents of gun violence in the developed world because Americans have, by far, the most guns.

Exact numbers are difficult to pin down but by most reliable estimates, this arms race is not even close. A 2018 survey by a Swiss institute, Small Arms Survey, estimated that the US had more guns than people - 120.5 civilian firearms for every 100 residents. To put this in perspective, second on this list is war-torn Yemen with 52.8 guns for every 100 residents, a gun ownership rate less than half of the US rate.

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