On the evening of Nov. 7, 2018, a lone gunman opened fire in a country music bar in Thousand Oaks, California, killing 12 before turning the gun on himself. The incident is the latest mass shooting in a country where such incidents are becoming all too familiar.
The two deadliest shootings in U.S. history took place in the last three years. The firearms used to carry out each of these — as well as the one used in the most recent mass shooting in Thousand Oaks — were purchased legally.
Private gun ownership in the United States is protected by the Second Amendment of the Constitution. While there are some restrictions to gun ownership that vary by state and city, American citizens are generally guaranteed the right to keep and bear arms.
And many choose to exercise that right.
There are an estimated 393.3 million civilian-held firearms in the United States — or about 121 for every 100 American citizens, the highest gun ownership rate of anywhere in the world. The second highest gun ownership rate is 52.8 firearms per 100 people in Yemen, a country currently in the throes of civil war.
Unfortunately, America’s gun culture has come at a cost.
While mass shootings regularly grab the attention of the national media, they account for only a sliver of total gun deaths in the United States. The 68 people killed in mass shootings this year make up a fraction of a percent of the 12,509 people killed by guns in 2018. On top of that, an estimated 22,000 people commit suicide with firearms every year.
Across the United States, there were 4.4 firearm deaths for every 100,000 people from the start of 2015 through the end of 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gun violence tends to be concentrated in America’s major cities, as the the firearm death rate in the country’s 50 largest metro areas is 4.9 per 100,000.
Of course, gun violence rates can vary substantially by city. In some of America’s most violent metro areas, firearm death rates are more than double the comparable national rate.
|Rank||Geography||Firearm homicides: 2015-2016||Per 100,000||Firearm suicides: 2015-2016 (age 10+)||Per 100,000|
|1||New Orleans-Metairie, LA||404||16.6||186||8.1|
|5||St. Louis, MO||596||11.4||442||8.7|
|6||Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI||267||8.9||182||6.5|
|7||Louisville/Jefferson County, KY||204||8.4||259||11|
|9||Kansas City, MO||327||8.2||375||10.4|
To identify the cities with the most gun violence, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the number of firearm homicides in America’s 50 largest metro areas from the beginning of 2015 through the end of 2016 for every 100,000 residents. We also reviewed the firearm suicide rate for the same time period. All data came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.