When asked, during the second presidential debate, about their respective positions on assault weapons, both candidates gave only vague responses. Neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney offered any indication that they would would push for stronger gun control laws.
In case you haven't been paying attention for the last, say, 40 years, gun control has long been a thorny issue in American politics, partly because of the ongoing heated debate over how the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted, and partly because of the National Rifle Association, a powerful lobbying group that has successfully dissuaded ranks of political leaders from pushing for more restrictive firearms legislation.
Nevertheless, it's still surprising how little attention the issue's received in this year's presidential race, given the number of mass shootings this year, including one of the deadliest in U.S. history that happened just four months ago at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, in which 12 people were killed and 70 injured. As with most mass shootings in the U.S., the guns used in the massacre had all been purchased legally.
And even though violent crime rates nationwide have fallen in recent years, the number of firearm deaths in the U.S. remains alarmingly high. Between 2006 and 2010, nearly 48,000 people were killed by gunshot wounds (including suicides). The firearms industry, meanwhile, is booming. According to a recent report by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, in 2010 there were close to 130,000 federally licensed firearms dealers in the U.S. In that year alone, nearly 5.5 million firearms were manufactured here, and roughly 3.3 million were imported.
That's just about 9 million new firearms floating around the country!