The aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting is rife with big, unanswered questions, from the shooter’s motive to how politicians will respond to the historically intractable gun lobby. But one fact has come into stark relief: A very small number of people own the vast majority of the nation’s guns.
Looking at data from a survey conducted by Harvard and Northwestern universities, Quartz reports today that 3% of the population own more than half the civilian guns in the U.S. The average American gun owner owns three, more than half own one or two, and 14% — 7.7 million, or 3% of Americans — own between eight and 140 guns.
The Las Vegas shooter, Stephen Paddock, owned 47 guns, which puts him in the 3%.
Other statistics Quartz noted:
— The U.S. is the country that owns the most guns: More than half of the total number worldwide, despite having only 5% of the world’s population.
— The U.S. has the greatest number of guns per capita: 89 to 100 guns per 100 Americans. Meaning there is about one gun per person in the entire country.
A July 2017 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 46% of people in rural areas own guns, compared to 28% in suburban areas, and 19% in urban areas. About three-quarters of gun owners consider owning a firearm to be essential to their personal sense of freedom, compared to only 35% of non-owners.
A June 2017 Pew survey found that 46% of American support additional gun control. It’s unclear if that number will rise after the Vegas shooting. After the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, a June 2016 CNN survey found that 55% of respondents said they favored stricter gun control laws, and 42% were opposed — up nine points from June 2015. But on Oct. 2, CNN reported that long-term trends tracked by Gallup show support for gun control rises after mass shootings, then fades as the incidents become more distant.