Why Do So Many Americans Have Guns? Is It The Fear Of A Black President.
There are nearly three hundred million privately owned
firearms in the United States: a hundred and six million handguns, a hundred and
five million rifles, and eighty-three million shotguns. That works out to about
one gun for every American. The gun that T. J. Lane brought to Chardon High
School belonged to his uncle, who had bought it in 2010, at a gun shop. Both of
Lane’s parents had been arrested on charges of domestic violence over the years.
Lane found the gun in his grandfather’s barn.
The United States is the country with the highest rate of civilian gun
ownership in the world. (The second highest is Yemen, where the rate is
nevertheless only half that of the U.S.) No civilian population is more
powerfully armed. Most Americans do not, however, own guns, because
three-quarters of people with guns own two or more. According to the General
Social Survey, conducted by the National Policy Opinion Center at the University
of Chicago, the prevalence of gun ownership has declined steadily in the past
few decades. In 1973, there were guns in roughly one in two households in the
United States; in 2010, one in three. In 1980, nearly one in three Americans
owned a gun; in 2010, that figure had dropped to one in five.
Men are far more likely to own guns than women are, but the rate of gun
ownership among men fell from one in two in 1980 to one in three in 2010, while,
in that same stretch of time, the rate among women remained one in ten. What may
have held that rate steady in an age of decline was the aggressive marketing of
handguns to women for self-defense, which is how a great many guns are marketed.
Gun ownership is higher among whites than among blacks, higher in the country
than in the city, and higher among older people than among younger people. One
reason that gun ownership is declining, nationwide, might be that high-school
shooting clubs and rifle ranges at summer camps are no longer common.
Although rates of gun ownership, like rates of violent crime, are falling,
the power of the gun lobby is not. Since 1980, forty-four states have passed
some form of law that allows gun owners to carry concealed weapons outside their
homes for personal protection. (Five additional states had these laws before
Illinois is the sole holdout.) A federal ban on the possession, transfer,
or manufacture of semiautomatic assault weapons, passed in 1994, was allowed to
expire in 2004. In 2005, Florida passed the Stand Your Ground law, an extension
of the so-called castle doctrine, exonerating from prosecution citizens who use
deadly force when confronted by an assailant, even if they could have retreated
safely; Stand Your Ground laws expand that protection outside the home to any
place that an individual “has a right to be.” Twenty-four states have passed
The day before T. J. Lane shot five high-school students in Ohio, another
high-school student was shot in Florida. The Orlando Sentinel ran a
three-paragraph story. On February 26th, seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin left
a house in a town outside Orlando and walked to a store. He was seen by a
twenty-eight-year-old man named George Zimmerman, who called 911 to report that
Martin, who was black, was “a real suspicious guy.” Zimmerman got out of his
truck. Zimmerman was carrying a 9-mm. pistol; Martin was unarmed. What happened
next has not been established, and is much disputed. Zimmerman told the police
that Martin attacked him. Martin’s family has said that the boy, heard over a
cell phone, begged for his life.
Zimmerman shot Martin in the chest. Martin did not survive. Zimmerman was not
charged. Outside Orlando, the story was not reported.