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As a resident of the United States I would like to provide a little insight into the gun ownership figures. I don’t own any guns myself nor am I am expert in the field, but I do have friends and family who own guns. And of course with the tragedy in Newtown, CT gun issues are very much on everyone’s mind.
The statistic “9 out of every 10 citizens own firearms” is not strictly speaking true. It is based on the number of firearms in private ownership, about 270 million, divided by the population of the U.S. For reasons that I don’t pretend to understand, a lot of gun owners own multiple guns. (Some are dealers or collectors but not the majority.) I have not been able to find good statistics giving the percent of Americans who own guns but I don’t think it’s 90 percent.
Gun ownership is seen by many in the U.S. as a right, based on the Second Amendment of U.S. Constitution. The problem is that it’s not clear what was really intended by this amendment-whether the right it was defending is collective (the right for communities to form militias for self-defense) or individual (the right of individuals to keep arms, without being a member of a militia). The Supreme Court has ruled that it protects an individual’s right to own guns but has not really addressed the extent to which that right can be limited. (Technically, the amendment talks about ‘arms’ but I don’t think even the most extreme interpreter of the amendment would try to defend the rights of individuals to own nuclear weapons, which are technically ‘arms’.)
Much of the politics about guns are also tied in to the liberal/conservative divide in our current culture, with conservatives tending to be on the ‘pro-gun’ side and liberals being more ‘anti-gun.’
There is also a rural/urban divide, with rural residents more likely to be hunters (and have positive associations with guns) and urban residents more likely to associate guns with crime.
While I don’t really want to get into the gory details of U.S. politics and cultures, I did want to provide a little insight into what is a very complicated issue here in the US.
Somerset, Kentucky, U.S.