Although the US has only 5% of the world's population, it has nearly 50% of the world's civilian owned guns. In fact, there are more guns than people.
Those statistics don't tell the full story though. So let's dive into it. Most firearm deaths in the US are from suicide (more than two thirds); the other third are homicides.
Almost all of those homicides happen in poor neighborhoods (like some infamous parts of Chicago).
Most people in Chicago, however, go their whole life without ever hearing or seeing a gun.
In fact, the high level of violent crime in the US is perpetrated by small networks of people, most of who know each other, and most of whom don't wander far from their turf e.g. gangs.
It should make sense, therefore, that knowing somebody who has been a victim of gun violence vastly increases your own chances of becoming a victim.
Although it is true that there are higher levels of gun violence in regions with more guns (the southern states), this violence affects people in different ways.
In regions with high gun ownership, white rural males are more likely to commit suicide, while black urban males are more likely to die in a drive-by shooting.
Needless to say, in most situations, owning a gun increases your chances of being shot, either by yourself or somebody else.
With violence and mass shootings unfortunately becoming a more frequent part of news reports, reasons that people own a gun have shifted. According to Pew Research, in 1999, only 26% of study participants owned a gun for protection. Most sited hunting and hobby as primary reasons. By 2013, 48% of participants owned a gun for protection.
So what about gun control? Well, it's a touchy subject. Detractors will often point to Norway. In spite of the country's strict gun laws, in 2011, a terrorist by the name of Anders Breivik murdered 77 students during a summer camp.
Proponents, on the other hand, will point to Australia. A mass shooting in Tasmania in 1996 (when 28-year-old Martin Bryant shot and killed 35 people) caused Australia to pass strict gun laws and even hold a buyback where people returned their guns to the government. It hasn't had a mass shooting since.
So does gun control work? In general, yes. But it's worth noting that 80% of mass shootings are carried out by people who legally buy guns.
Experts believe that in order to stop mass shootings, most countries would need to follow Japan's lead and all but ban guns completely.
Since this is not likely to happen, most countries should focus on effective gun control.
Better gun control would likely help decrease the astronomical homicide rates found in isolated high crime neighborhoods around the country; the vast majority of Americans would be unaffected and continue to live lives free of gun violence.
Many experts believe that tackling poverty and inequality would curb violence in high crime neighborhoods as well.
On average, the US is an unusually violent country, but as we saw, almost all of this violence is concentrated in very specific high crime neighborhoods.
In fact, in the last 40 years, rates of death due to assault have plummeted by half.
Also, less households report having firearms, and firearm ownership is decreasing, especially among younger people.
US gun violence is falling rapidly. You are far more likely to die driving on your way to the mall than get killed by a shooter while shopping.
Although getting rid of America's guns would be tough, polls show that most Americans are at least in favor of some restrictions.
In spite of this, groups like the NRA lobby heavily to prevent congress from passing reforms.
And in spite of the fact that gun ownership is declining overall, a few specific segments of society once again account for the massive number of guns in the country. Lately, this includes various survivalist groups and anti-government militias.
So to ease your mind, if you are really scared of being shot, get rid of your gun. Why? Because according to statistics you are the most likely person to kill you. As an American, if you don't die of heart disease or a stroke in your 70's, you'll almost certainly die in a car crash. Now doesn't that make you feel better?