Why do so many Americans have guns?

Source:Xinhua Published: 2017/10/7 9:49:30

In the wake of the worst mass shooting in US history, people worldwide are asking why so many Americans are armed to the teeth.

Sunday saw the most deadly mass shooting in US history. The killings, which occurred in the tourist mecca of Las Vegas, claimed nearly 60 lives and wounded more than 500, when a gunman opened fire on a crowd at a country music concert.

The shooter, identified as Stephen Paddock, attacked concert-goers at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. He later took his own life, and police found over a dozen additional firearms and explosives, according to local authorities and news reports.

The horrific event was reported by news outlets worldwide, from China to the Republic of Korea, Japan, Britain and South Africa, and has been the subject of thousands of editorials all over the world in recent days.

According to the Congressional Research service, there are around 300 million guns in the United States owned by non-military individuals. To put that in a global perspective, the United States comprises around 5 percent of the world's population, but has 35 percent to 50 percent of the world's civilian-owned firearms, according to the Small Arms Survey. By far, the United States has the highest civilian gun ownership on the planet, according to the UN Office of Drugs and Crime.

FEAR OF INVASION

There are myriad reasons for this.

Firstly, the right to bear arms is enshrined in the US Constitution, the highest legal authority in the United States. The nation's founding fathers viewed an armed population as necessary to keep the United States safe from foreign invaders, as the nation had just broken away from England before it was founded. The founders had employed, with great success, citizen militia forces to defeat the English crown and gain independence.

Many Americans, especially in rural areas, still believe that an armed population is a deterrent to foreign invaders. Critics of that argument say citizen militias cannot take on a modern army in this day and age. But many gun owners note that poorly-equipped, third-world guerilla fighters in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan inflicted major losses on ultra-modern, high-tech US forces.

Some observers believe fear of invasion has been partly influenced by the decades-long Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union. In the 1950s, American school children would practice "duck and cover" drills -- hiding under desks in case of a Soviet nuclear attack.

FRONTIER HISTORY

Another reason is the nation's frontier history. Parts of the United States were once sparsely populated. In some areas, the nearest police station was hours away, and citizens needed firearms to protect their land and families, say historians.

Many Americans during that time needed to hunt for food, and hunting has been ingrained in American culture for hundreds of years.

PROTECTION FROM CRIME

Another reason is protection from crime.

Pew Research, in a study published in June that surveyed 3,930 adults, including 1,269 gun owners, found that protection tops the list of reasons for owning a gun. Sixty-seven percent of firearm owners cited that as a reason for owning a gun.

Police cannot be everywhere at once, argue gun owners, and that means that sometimes individuals need to defend themselves.

Gun advocates point to numerous instances in which armed homeowners have protected their families from dangerous intruders. In a story that made headlines last year, an escaped murder suspect took a family hostage in the US state of Mississippi. The family shot the intruder dead with a gun they kept in their house, possibly saving their own lives.

PERSONAL FREEDOM

Another reason is attached to Americans' sense of personal freedom, with 74 percent of gun owners saying the right to bear arms is essential, compared with 35 percent of non-gun owners, according to the Pew survey. Ninety-one percent of Republican gun owners say owning a gun is essential to their freedom.

In the wake of the Las Vegas mass shooting, one thing is for sure -- with so many US gun enthusiasts, any new gun control measures will be hard to pass, experts say.

Posted in: AMERICAS

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