There are 13,905 McDonald’s restaurants and 14,606 Starbucks stores in the United States. That is two chains with a combined 28,511 places you can buy a cup of coffee compared with an estimated 50,000+ places you can buy a firearm.
The gunman who killed twelve people in Virginia Beach, Virginia before dying in a shootout with police is the latest incident to stimulate the gun debate in the US.
Police said the gunman was armed with two .45 caliber pistols with multiple extended ammunition magazines. One of the pistols was fitted with a “sound suppressor.” police said. According to a special agent at the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, both handguns were bought legally by the shooter.
There is no official tally of American gun ownership, so there is a margin of error around any estimate of either gun ownership or the number of guns in circulation. Neither the US Census Bureau nor the the US. Chamber of Commerce keep data on gun stores, but the ABC television channel has reported there are 51,438 retail gun stores in the US. The US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) keeps a monthly log on its website of how many people and pawnbrokers are licensed to sell guns in the US and its territories. In January 2019, the total was 58,725. About 51,000 of them were gun dealers with the rest being pawnbrokers. The ATF does not track how many licensed dealers own a business from which they sell guns as opposed to those who may sell guns at a show.
The latest edition of the global Small Arms Survey, a project of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, reports there are more than 393 million civilian-owned firearms in the United States, or enough for every man, woman and child to own one and still have 67 million guns left over. The report claims in 2017 Americans made up four percent of the world’s population but owned about 46 percent of the entire global stock of civilian firearms.
In 2017, Gallup found that 42 percent of American households reported owning guns. The US Census has estimated 118 million households in the United States which would mean the country’s 393 million guns are distributed among 50 million households. The implication being the average gun-owning household owns nearly eight guns.
Back to suppressing the sound of gun fire. Silencers have been regulated since 1934, when Congress restricted access to machine guns, sawed-off shotguns and other weapons used by gangs. Those wishing to buy a silencer must pay a $200 fee, submit fingerprints and a photograph, and secure the approval of their local police chief. Approval by ATF typically takes four to nine months. That is more complex and more time consuming than buying a gun and ammunition from a store.