Whatever your opinion about gun rights, it's hard to deny that the frequency of mass shootings is closely tied with America's very high rate of gun ownership. The U.S. has an average of 88 guns per 100 people, according to a 2007 Small Arms Survey.
That puts gun ownership rates in the U.S. far above the rest of the world, as the map below, created with data from the Small Arms Survey shows. The U.S. has less than 5 percent of the world's population, yet it's home to between a third and a half of the world's civilian-owned guns, according to that data. The Guardian previously produced a similar analysis.
How exceptional is the U.S. in terms of its gun violence? As the graph below, created by Joshua Tewksbury of Tewksbury Lab, shows, there are a number of countries around the world that have higher rates of gun-related death than the U.S. But they are countries like El Salvador, Jamaica, Honduras, Guatemala and Swaziland -- countries that "are not exactly comparable to the U.S.," as Tewksbury puts it.
When you look at countries with similar characteristics to the U.S. -- that have similar levels of life expectancy, education and income -- the relationship between high levels of gun ownership and high rates of firearm death is glaring. The graph below shows that relationship for countries that rate highly on the UN Development Program's Inequality-Adjusted Human Development Index:
The takeaway is that high levels of gun ownership aren't the sole cause of gun-related deaths around the world -- countries like El Salvador, Honduras and Swaziland see a horrific number of gun deaths, despite having only slightly more guns than Japan. But in rich countries, having low levels of gun ownership does seem to be an effective way to prevent people from being killed by guns.