Guns, Culture and Crime in the US - in a special three-part series, Inside Story Americas takes the debate on gun control to the American people. Are they as divided as their politicians?

There are nearly 300 million firearms in the US - which is almost as many guns as there are people. It is, in fact, the most heavily armed country per capita in the world.

"I definitely feel like it makes me look like a criminal in some ways just because I like guns and have guns and like to shoot guns. I don't appreciate that it seems like almost everyone in the media seems to portray gun owners that way."

- Vincent Greene, a gun owner

But since 20 children were shot and killed in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, the call for tougher gun control laws has been louder than it has been for decades.

Those calls have also prompted many to go out and buy more guns. Stores across the country have recorded a massive increase in sales, as gun owners fear regulations could infringe on their right to bear arms.

In a country where the right to bear arms is enshrined in the constitution, the debate over gun control is highly divisive.

Gun owners say they are being unfairly vilified, while gun control advocates say assault rifles have no place on the streets.

In this first episode of our Inside Story Americas special series, Guns, Culture and Crime in the US, we look at why the debate over gun control is so polarised and travel to West Virginia - a place where shooting guns is a sport that has been passed down over generations - to find out what fuels the love for guns in this country.

"We often think of gun control as a modern 20th century invention. But nothing can be further from the truth. The truth is we have had gun control laws since the very founding of this nation .... You think of the Wild West as part of America's gun culture but in truth it was very much the heart of America's gun control culture."

Adam Winkler, a constitutional lawyer

Source: Al Jazeera