Do we need further restrictions on guns? The debate is raging after the school massacre in Newtown, Conn. Proponents and opponents each cite studies and have strong arguments. Without suggesting any specific course, we've collected 10 things to consider that we thought might help shed light on the issue.
1. The U.S. has 5 percent of the world's population and 50 percent of the guns, according to the Washington Post.
2. According to FBI statistics, cited in an analysis by the Christian Science Monitor, violent crime, including gun crimes, dropped dramatically in 2009 while gun sales increased at least 12 percent.
3. Firearms were used in 68 percent of murders in 2011, according to the FBI.
4. Mother Jones magazine tracked every shooting spree in the U.S. over the last three decades and found that in most cases, the killers obtained the weapons legally.
5. Two studies published in The New England Journal of Medicine showed that keeping a gun in the home increases the risk of both suicide and homicide. Keeping a gun in the home makes it 2.7 times more likely that someone will be a victim of homicide in the home. In almost all cases, the victim is either related to or intimately acquainted with the murderer.
6. A machine gun is an automatic weapon. Automatic weapons fire when you pull the trigger, and keep firing until you release the trigger. A machine gun can normally fire between 400 and 1,000 rounds (bullets) per minute, or between 7 and 17 rounds per second. But machine guns are uncommon and expensive, and their ownership is tightly controlled.
7. A semi-automatic weapon, like the Bushmaster that was reportedly the primary weapon in the Newtown massacre, requires you to pull the trigger for each shot. A single shot weapon requires you to reload, cock or pump the new load each time. Almost every gun that shoots is semi-automatic, according to a primer on guns prepared by the Poynter Institute for journalists.
8. Defining "assault weapon" is difficult, and there is no technical definition. Generally, assault weapons reflect military-style characteristics, such as a forward pistol grip, bayonet mount, folding stock or the capacity to hold more than 10 rounds.
9. California has a law banning assault weapons, considered one of the most restrictive in the nation. Some speculate it will be used as a model for the federal ban being drafted by U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein.
10. In the U.S., the gun-related homicide rate is 30 times that of France or Australia, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime. It is 12 times higher than the average for other developed countries. But the U.S. rate is below those of Guatemala, Paraguay, Zimbabwe, Mexico, Costa Rica, Belarus, and Barbados.