The Current

U.S. gun owners defend their right to bear arms in the wake of mass shootings

Gun ownership is considered a fundamental right in the U.S., an almost-sacred belief in the right to bear arms and not even a string of massacres seems capable of shaking that belief. We hear from three American gun owners to tell us why.
Second Amendment supporter Theresa White of Estes Park, Colorado gathers with other activists in support of gun ownership on January 9, 2013, at the Colorado State Capitol in Denver, Colorado. (Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)

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America's relationship with the gun is top of mind once again, after last week's mass shooting that left 14 dead, just down the freeway from L.A. in San Bernardino. The U.S. president has labelled the shootings an act of terror, but he's also called, once again, for tougher gun laws.

Gun ownership is considered a fundamental right in the U.S. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The numbers in the U.S. speak for themselves.

► According to the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. averaged about 21 mass shootings a year from 1999 to 2013. It defines a mass shooting as four or more people killed, either in public or private. 

 Statistics actually show there's been an overall decline in violent crime in America -- including gun violence. Yet guns still result in an estimated 90 deaths a day, whether in murders, suicide or accidental shootings.

 If you go back and count up all the deaths from gunfire in the U.S. since 1968, you get 1.5 million people! That's more than the number of Americans killed in all wars from the Revolutionary War to Iraq, according to Politifact -- an independent fact-checking journalism website.

► So how just how many guns are circulating in the US? There are no official figures, but estimates put the number at 300 million. The Small Arms Survey says the US is home to between a third and a half of the world's civilian-owned guns. 

 Who owns all these guns? A survey by the Pew Research Centre found that 61% of adults who own guns are white men. By comparison, white men make up just 32% of the U.S. adult population.

So why are Americans so passionate about their firearms? 

We convened three gun owners to explain why they need their weapons.

  • Michael Cargill is the owner of Central Texas Gun Works, a store and training facility in Austin, Texas.
  • Nicholas Sarwark is the Chair of the U.S. Libertarian Party in Phoenix Arizona.   
  • Steve Scaffidi is the mayor of Oak Creek, Wisconsin, where a mass shooting shook the community in 2012. 

We did put in an interview request with the gun rights' group the National Rifle Association, but no one was made available.   

Let us know what you think. Does the prevailing gun control discussion in the U.S. affect the way you feel about that country?

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This segment was produced by The Current's Idella Sturino and Leif Zapf-Gilje.