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The US has a problem with guns. Here's what to know.

By Holmes Lybrand, CNN

Updated: Thu, 03 Jun 2021 11:06:55 GMT

Source: CNN

Another spate of mass shootings this week continued to shake the US, adding to what feels like an increasingly violent time as the country emerges from shelter-in-place orders and restrictions imposed during the pandemic.

On Sunday, two people were killed and 21 others wounded after three masked suspects opened fire at a crowd outside a concert venue in southern Florida, according to police. Three days later, six people were injured in a mass shooting in Springfield, Ohio. During the previous weekend, there had been at least 12 mass shootings across the country, according to CNN reporting and analysis of data from Gun Violence Archive.

CNN defines a mass shooting as an incident with four or more people killed or wounded by gunfire -- excluding the shooter; so does the Gun Violence Archive.

In the past few months, the US has witnessed a seemingly constant stream of mass killings. After a mass shooting in March left 10 dead at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, President Joe Biden called for Congress to act and promised legislative action. Those demands from the President were renewed in April, following mass shootings in South Carolina and Texas.

"They've offered plenty of thoughts and prayers, members of Congress, but they have passed not a single new federal law to reduce gun violence," Biden said during an event on April 8 announcing new federal gun-control measures. "Enough prayers; time for some action."

Here's what to know about gun violence and gun ownership in the US today.

Gun violence

More than 8,100 people have died from gun violence in the US this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, with over 240 mass shootings as of June 1. In May, the archive told CNN there has been a 23% uptick in deaths from gun violence this year.

That comes against a backdrop of rising crime, though not all of it gun-related. In 2020, as the pandemic devastated the country, major cities saw homicides increase more than 30%, and the crime surge seen last year has continued well into 2021.

The increase is a seemingly stark contrast to years of decreasing rates of crime in the country. In the US, crime rates have been declining since the 1990s, with violent crime -- which includes crimes such as murder, rape, aggravated assault and robbery -- dropping 13.4% from 2001 to 2010, a decline that continued over the next nine years, dropping 3.8% from the 2010 levels in 2019 -- though violent crime did tick up in 2016 and 2017.

FBI crime data is not yet available for all of 2020, leaving questions as to whether the increase in murders in major cities was also occurring throughout the majority of the US during the pandemic.

Gun purchases in the US

Gun purchases remain at record-breaking levels, and there are shortages of ammunition.

In 2020, firearms sales broke records, with nearly 23 million guns purchased, according to estimates from Small Arms Analytics, a consulting firm based in Greenville, South Carolina. The number represented a 65% increase from 2019, according to Small Arms Analytics, and was significantly higher than the previous record of 15.7 million guns purchased in 2016.

Americans purchased nearly 9.2 million firearms in the first five months of 2021, compared with the 8.7 million purchased during the same period in 2020, according to a new analysis from Small Arms Analytics.

Even before the record-breaking year of 2020, private citizens in the US owned far more firearms than those in any other country.

As of 2017, 393 million guns were owned by civilians in the US, according to a 2018 Switzerland-based Small Arms Survey report, which was "more than those held by civilians in the other top 25 countries combined."

National gun control efforts

While Biden has promised gun control action and has taken steps of his own, like changing federal regulations to include so-called ghost guns as firearms -- a move that will most certainly face legal challenges -- efforts to tighten gun restrictions have stalled in Congress.

The Democratic-controlled House has passed two gun control measures this year focused on requiring federal background checks for all purchases, including private sales, as well as expanding the time frame authorities have to complete those checks.

The Senate, with its narrow Democratic majority, would likely need every Democrat and 10 Republicans to push the legislation through. Despite some Republican senators voicing support for expanding background checks, there is currently not enough momentum or agreement among lawmakers to break the almost-guaranteed filibuster.


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