Photo for illustrative purpose. Image Credit: AP

Washington: The mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, is putting the spotlight on the US being the most heavily armed civilian population by far in the world. A recent spurt of firearms purchases has likely increased that lead.

US gun owners possess 393.3 million weapons, according to a 2018 report by the Small Arms Survey, a Geneva-based organization, which is higher than the country’s population now of about 330 million.

India, which has almost 1.4 billion people, had the second most civilian-owned firearms with 71.1 million.

The gap is likely growing after Americans went on a gun buying spree beginning in 2020. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which the Federal Bureau of Investigation collects and is a widely used as a proxy for firearms purchases, jumped 40% in 2020 from the previous year to 39.7 million. The frenzy only cooled slightly to 38.9 million checks in 2021, which are usually done before purchases or to receive gun permits. Already, there have been 10.8 million checks through April 30.

The trend of people arming themselves has been on an upward curve for years even as mass shootings plague the country. On Tuesday, 19 schoolchildren, two teachers and the gunman were killed in a shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. It marks the latest massacre in the US, coming days after 10 Black shoppers were killed in an attack at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket and a man was killed and multiple people injured in an attack at a Taiwanese church in Southern California.

Mass shootings, far from quelling demand for guns, actually spur purchases from those concerned that lawmakers could enact gun-control measures,the FBI checks have shown repeatedly. Investors know this. Shares of Smith & Wesson Brands Inc. rose 8.9% to $15.19 at 12:14 p.m. in New York and Sturm Ruger & Co., the maker of handguns, rose 6.1% to $67.51.

The US, the only country in the report that had more civilian-owned guns than people, had about 120.5 firearms per 100 residents. Yemen followed with 52.8 per 100 residents. Canada had 34.7 and France and Germany both had 19.6, according to the Small Arms report. In countries like Japan and Indonesia that number plunged to less than one.