This post sets out a few facts relevant to guns and gun control in the United States. Below are some facts summarised from the following two articles, published in The Age newspaper today. Sources: Will the Sandy Hook massacre be America's tipping point? Talking gun violence: facts for a debate America has to have --- 1. There have been 16 mass shootings in 2012 in the United States. 2. Most US states have no owner licensing or gun registration, no requirement to provide a good reason to own a gun, no ban on semi-automatic assault weapons, and no limit on the number of such guns a person can own. 3. Following the Port Arthur massacre of 35 people in Australia in 1996, strict gun laws were introduced. Since then, the annual number of gunshot deaths has dropped by half and there have been no mass shootings. Researchers at the Australian National University estimate that the laws have saved $500 million a year and 200 lives. The population of the US is about 10 times that of Australia, so scale this up by a factor of 10 to estimate possible benefits of strict gun control. 4. In the most recent US election, most of the candidates backed by the NRA did not win their seats. 5. The day after the latest shooting (Sandy Hook), more than 100,000 people signed dozens of petitions. Campaigners are calling for two basic measures: (a) All gun buyers pass a criminal background check, whether they are buying a new or second-hand weapon. At present most states only require background checks for buyers of new guns. Not surprisingly, a large proportion of gun sales - estimated at 40 per cent - are second-hand. (b) A ban on civilian ownership of assault weapons, the automatic or semi-automatic firearms designed for killing large numbers of people. Meanwhile, the gun lobby is circulating a petition that calls for a gun in every classroom, with every teacher to be armed. 6. Police data show that gun sales tend to increase after mass shootings like the one in Sandy Hook. 7. Since 1982, there have been at least 61 mass murders carried out with firearms across the country, with the killings unfolding in 30 states from Massachusetts to Hawaii. In most cases, the killers obtained their weapons legally. 8. Eleven of the 20 worst mass shootings in the past 50 years happened in the US. 9. Lots of guns don't necessarily mean lots of shootings, as can be seen from the examples of Israel and Switzerland. 10. Of the 11 deadliest shootings in the US, five have happened since 2006. That doesn't include the Newtown, Connecticut, shooting. 11. America is an unusually violent country, but it's not as violent as it used to be. Kieran Healy, a sociologist at Duke University, in July made a graph of ''deaths due to assault'' in the US and other developed countries. The US is a clear outlier, with rates well above other countries. As Healy writes, ''The most striking features of the data are (1) how much more violent the US is than other OECD countries … and (2) the degree of change - and recently, decline - there has been in the US.'' 12. Gun ownership in the US is declining. ''For all the attention given to America's culture of guns, ownership of firearms is at or near all-time lows,'' political scientist Patrick Egan, of New York University, wrote in July. ''Long-term trends suggest that we are in fact currently experiencing a waning culture of guns and violence in the US.'' 13. More guns tend to mean more homicide, according to the Harvard Injury Control Research Centre. This holds true whether you're looking at different countries or different states. 14. States with stricter gun control laws have fewer deaths from gun-related violence (source: economist Richard Florida). 15. Higher populations, more stress, more immigrants and more mental illness are not correlated with more deaths from gun violence. 16. Gun control, in general, has not been politically popular in the US. .... Gallup reported after a mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona, last year. ''In the most recent reading, Gallup in 2010 found 44 per cent in favour of stricter laws. In fact, in 2009 and again last year, the slight majority said gun laws should either remain the same or be made less strict.'' 17. But particular policies to control guns often are. An August CNN poll asked Americans whether they favour or oppose a number of specific policies to restrict gun ownership. And when you drill down to that level, many policies, including banning the manufacture and possession of semi-automatic rifles, are popular. About 90 per cent support background checks and no guns for felons or the mentally ill. 18. Shootings don't tend to substantially affect the views of Americans on gun control.