Gun violence doesn’t usually look like Uvalde

This isn’t good news. That thousands of people are fatally shot a year in separate incidents is a reflection of how widespread gun violence is.

That the shooter in Uvalde used a rifle is also not the norm. There are a few ways to categorize weapon ownership in the country, none perfect. If we look at FBI background checks for new permits or sales (transfers) from licensed dealers in 2020 and 2021, we see that most are for handguns. There were spikes in March 2020 (at the outset of the pandemic) and June of that year (as protests erupted across the country). But in no month during those two years were most checks not for handguns.

As you might expect, given that bit of data, most of the firearms manufactured in the United States in 2020 were handguns — nearly 60 percent of the 11 million firearms produced in this country. When it comes to firearms used in crimes, handguns are far more common. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives found that 80 percent of the 393,000 guns it recovered from crime scenes and traced were pistols or revolvers.

A medical analogy is apt. Incidents like Uvalde are terrifying, acute manifestations of America’s unique gun culture. But the chronic problem is daily death at a smaller scale from people killing themselves or others, often by accident.

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