WASHINGTON — Week after week, Americans are subjected to learning about another deadly mass shooting. Firearms are the number one cause of death in children and teens. As many search for answers, social media becomes increasingly populated with all kinds of statistics about guns in the U.S.
A number of Democratic politicians have claimed on Twitter that the United States has more guns than people. Others claim that the U.S. has more guns per person than any other country.
The Verify team dug into both of those claims.
Are there more guns than people in the U.S., and are there more guns per person than in any other country?
- Small Arms Survey 2017 data
- U.S. Census data
- Jody Madeira, Professor of Law at Indiana University Bloomington
- Jacob Charles, Executive Director, Center for Firearms Law at Duke University
Yes, there are more guns than people in the U.S., and the U.S. has the highest number of civilian guns per person compared to other countries.
WHAT WE FOUND
The Small Arms Survey (SAS) is an independent firearms research project based in the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. They released a report estimating the number of civilian firearms in the world in 2017. That study found there were more than 1 billion firearms in the world, 857 million of which were in civilian hands.
SAS estimated that in 2017, 393 million guns were owned by United States citizens. That same year, the U.S. Census estimated the population to be 326 million. By the U.S. Census's latest numbers, the estimated population is still under 393 million. So yes, there are more guns in the U.S. than there are people.
The United States has the highest rate of guns per person, and is the only country with more guns than people. SAS estimates that the U.S. has 120.5 firearms per 100 residents. The country with the second-highest rate of civilian firearm ownership is Yemen, with just 52.8 guns per 100 residents.
However, a 2017 Pew Research survey found that only 30% of adults own a gun. Jacob Charles explained the United States' high number of guns is driven by what he calls "super owners."
"It's not the fact that, even though we have more guns than people, every single person owns a gun. Some of it's driven by what are called 'super owners,' so people who own 20 guns or more 10 guns or more," he explained.
That 2017 SAS report also found that although the United States has just 4% of the world's population, its civilians own almost 40% of the world's firearms.