Tuesday -- the day before President Barack Obama unveiled his new proposals to reduce gun violence, including background checks on all gun sales and a revised ban on assault weapons -- was like any other average day of bloodshed in the United States.
There were no catastrophes comparable to the Newtown tragedy that spurred the national debate on gun control, only the run-of-the-mill shootings that make the U.S. a leader of gun crime in the so-called developed world.
The mayhem included:
- A student with mental illness and a violent past shot a downtown St. Louis business school official yesterday after he lost his financial aid, before shooting himself, according to authorities.
- A gunman firing into a parked car at a Kentucky community college killed a man and woman sitting inside and wounded a girl who was with them. Police suspect it was a domestic dispute, although they haven't made an arrest.
- A dramatic increase in gun violence in Baltimore so far this year continued with three shootings, including the killing of a 17-year-old girl in an alley. No one was arrested.
If Americans misbehaved on Jan. 15, 2013, as they typically do, then there were 30 gun-related murders and 162 people wounded by firearms in the country, based on the most recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On top of that, another 53 people kill themselves with a firearm each day, according to the CDC.
Breaking it down further, three people are killed by a gun per hour and almost seven people are shot every 60 minutes.
The FBI's "crime clock" indicates that a violent crime occurs every 25.3 seconds. Data from last year isn't available yet, but the FBI reports that violent crime has fallen for five years through 2011, so the average number of murders and shootings may be somewhat lower.
While it's worth noting that the vast majority of gun owners are law abiding, the cold, hard numbers about deaths and injuries due to guns seem equally noteworthy. Guns were used in 11,422 homicides and 19,392 suicides in 2010, according to the CDC, and were used either intentionally or accidentally to wound 59,208 people in 2011.
One standard argument from gun owners holds that if more people were armed, the country would be a safer place. However, there are no reliable figures for how many crimes are prevented by people carrying weapons.
There were 16,454,951 background checks on firearms purchases in 2011, or more than 45,000 each day of the year. This tally doesn't include the number sold at gun shows, where purchasers don't get screened. Of the transactions run through an instant background check, an average of 214 are rejected daily because the buyer is an ex-con, has been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital or is prohibited from owning a gun for another reason.
That's what 365 average days add up to.
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