A gunman opened fire this week at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. killing 26 people including 20 children.
Although gun enthusiasts bristle at the idea that gun control should be part of any discussion in the wake of such a tragedy, the fact is guns were the means by which this horrific act was committed.
Since 1982 most mass shootings have been done with weapons that were obtained legally, Mother Jones reported. A vast array of weapons were used, but semi-automatic handguns were involved most often.
The magazine's report found that on average there were two mass shootings a year since 1982, however, 24 of the 61 cases it examined happened since 2006. The number of guns owned in the U.S. rose from 200 million to 300 million between 1995 and 2012, Mother Jones reported.
However, Slate did an anaylsis of mass murder before automatic weapons existed. Slate found that guns killed an average of 4.92 victims per mass killing, just ahead of blunt objects and bare hands at 4.52 per incident.
Gun rights advocates often will say that if people were armed, incidents such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting would not happen. However, during Columbine in 1999 a Jefferson County Sheriff's Deputy exchanged gunfire with Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold within minutes of the incident beginning. Despite this, Harris and Klebold were able to continue their attack, going to the library where most of their victims were killed.
Japan has some of strictest gun laws in the world and also has among the fewest deaths related to firearms, The Atlantic reported. For example, in 2006 Japan had two firearm related deaths, despite a population of 128 million. In 2007 and 2008 gun-related deaths were 22 and 11 respectively in Japan. In 2007, the U.S. had about 31,000 firearm related deaths, of those about 12,000 were homicides.
The U.S. Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which expired in 2004, classified any magazine capable of holding 10 rounds or more as a high capacity ammuntion feeding device. Wikipedia states that with the expiration of the law, six states limit magazines between 10 to 20 rounds.
However, even using standard magazines, a shooter can get off numerous rounds in a short amount of time. Seung-Hui Cho fired 170 times in nine minutes during the Virginia Tech massacre, The Roanoke Times reported. Cho used 17 magazines, reloading his Glock 19 and Walter P22 several times, according to Murderpedia. The Glock held 15 rounds per magazine and the Walter P22 10 rounds.
In Illinois, gun rights advocates won a victory this week when a federal appeals court ruled the state's ban on carrying a concealed weapon was unconsitutional. Before the 2-1 ruling, Illinois stood as the last state in the country maintaining an absolute prohibition on the carrying of concealed firearms by private citizens.
Correction: This post originally stated that the U.S. had about 12,000 gun-related deaths a year. In 2007, the U.S. had 31,000 gun-related deaths and about 12,000 of those were homicides.