Add everything together, make all the necessary caveats, carry the two, and we reach the conclusion that there are somewhere around 3,750,000 AR-15-type rifles in the United States today. If there are around 310 million firearms in the USA today, that means these auto-loading assault-style rifles make up around 1 percent of the total arsenal. And keep in mind, the AR-15 is just one of the many assault weapons on the market. Overstreet estimated that more than 800,000 Ruger Mini-14 rifles — the rifle that Anders Behring Breivik used in the Oslo summer camp shootings last year — had been produced since 1974. There are other types, too. This is only the tip of the gunberg.
No matter the exact figures, there are a whole hell of a lot of assault weapons in America, which complicates any talk of gun control. The most effective way for the government to reduce the existing gun stock would be to buy them back from their owners. When Australia imposed strict gun control measures in 1996 in the aftermath of a mass shooting, the Aussie government bought back 643,726 newly illegal rifles and shotguns at market value. The gun buyback program, which cost an estimated $400 million in U.S. dollars, was funded by a temporary 1 percent income tax levy.
Would such a plan fly in America? Extrapolating from Australia's numbers, a similar buyback in this more gun-laden country would cost billions. While a tax increase isn't the only way to raise that much money — the federal government could have a bake sale, or auction off some of its lesser-known historical treasures — it's certainly the most obvious way to do it. We might soon see what voters and politicians hate more: guns or taxes.