Editorial: The sea of guns

After a trip to Canada not too long ago, an associate mentioned in passing that he somehow felt safer during his visit there. So we looked it up. Was he, in fact, safer?

Well, no doubt it depends to some degree on where in Canada he was and what he was doing, just as dangers vary by location and activity in the United States.

But overall, yes, he was safer. Much safer, in fact. The likelihood of his being killed by a gun was about 21% of what it is in the United States, according to statistics maintained by the World Population Review.

The United States ranks 13th worldwide in the Review's list of firearm deaths per 100,000 population. Canada ranks 47th.

We, of course, live in a nation where the debate over guns creates a clear divide, so much so that we often question whether there is a middle ground. The response to tragedy becomes all too predictable - one side reflexively calls for greater gun control, the other side labels it a mental health problem, and the two sides then never come together to get something done.

With that as a backdrop, the Canada anecdote set us to wondering. Is Canada all that different from the United States?

If you look into it, you'll find that the difference is stunning.

America long has been somewhat famous for its gun culture. Even the Beatles worried about it before their first tour here 60 years ago. But the gun-culture expression does not adequately describe how awash our country is in firearms.

Statistics maintained by that same World Population Review source show that in the United States, there are more guns than people. The U.S. is the only country on earth where that is the case. The only one.

For every 100 people in the United States, there are 120.5 guns owned by civilians.

How large is that number really? It's almost twice as high as the country in second place - the Falkland Islands.

It's 3.5 times as high as gun ownership figures for Canada, which some might view as gun friendly when compared to most of the developed countries on the planet. Canada ranks 7th in the world in gun ownership, as a matter of fact.

Most of the developed countries in the West rank much, much lower. Whereas civilian gun ownership in the U.S. is 120.5 per 100 people, it's 19.6 in Germany and France, about 14.5 in Australia and Italy, 7.5 in Spain, 6.7 in Israel, 5.1 in Great Britain,

Certainly, our hunting traditions explain part of this difference. But as much as 23 times as many guns here as in England?

Many factors contribute to America's armed violence and an effective response requires myriad solutions. But with these as the numbers, it seems clear that an important elements in any multilayered program to save lives must be America's easy access to guns themselves.

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