I won't waste time discussing banning semi-automatic assault weapons since it is disgrace that they have been allowed. And the loopholes for gun shows is another disgrace. Sales between individuals, under federal law, do not require a background check. This means that felons can "lie and buy" at gun shows and other places where guns are readily available. More than 40% of gun purchases occur this way.
There are around 300 million guns in the US. About 100 million are handguns. There is a gun in between 40 to 45% of all American households. About 2/3 of the 16,000 killings in the US each year are done by guns. More than 30 Americans are killed every day by guns. Unless laws are change, an estimated 46,000 Americans will be killed by guns during President Obama's second term.
There have been 61 mass murders in the US since 1982. Guns legally obtained were used in 49 of them. Over a million people have been killed with guns in the US since 1968, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated
The firearm homicide rate in the US is 19.5 times higher than in other high-income countries (our overall homicide rate is 6.9 times higher).
A gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used in an unintentional shooting, a criminal assault or homicide, or an attempted or completed suicide than to be used to injure or kill in self-defense. A 2009 study found that people in possession of a gun are 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault. There are five times as many deaths from gun assaults as from knife assaults, where the rates of assault with knives and with guns are similar.
In the U.S, children under 15 commit suicide with guns at a rate of eleven times the rate of other countries combined. More Americans were killed with guns in the 18-year period between 1979 and 1997 (651,697), than were killed in battle in all wars since 1775 (650,858). States with tighter gun-control laws appear to have fewer gun-related deaths (however, this correlation is not true for mental illness).
Despite all this, according to the Gallup Poll, support for stricter gun-control laws has fallen from 78% in 1990 to 44% in 2010.
Sarah Brady started the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence after her husband was shot in the attempt on President Reagan's life. Here is part of her recent blog:
"Most Americans don't know how weak our guns laws are. Gun owners aren't licensed. Guns aren't registered. Why not? Because the NRA said so. The Brady Law, named for my husband after he was shot in the 1981 attempt to assassinate President Reagan, required background checks for gun purchases from licensed gun dealers. Most private sales, including those at gun shows, don't require background checks. That's insanity. The background-check system needs to be improved to insure that all prohibited purchasers are, in fact, prohibited from obtaining and possessing firearms. And, yes, we need a real ban on semi-automatic assault weapons and on magazines of more than ten rounds."
Every few years we have a new gun massacre of unspeakable horror that makes it seem like it will finally break the log-jam over gun control. Change however is never easy, especially when so many profit from selling guns. Polls after Newtown showed that support for gun control has increased -- but only to 55%. Support for the NRA is at similar levels.
Let's hope that Vice-President Biden, a long time advocate of gun control, makes the most of this opportunity.