Why does the United States have exponentially more mass shootings than any other country on the globe? Are we an inher- ently more violent people? Do we have more mentally ill citizens? Does our diversity cause us to attack each other?
The answer may be simpler than we think. Our mass shootings may well be because we have way, way, way more guns than any other country. Americans account for 4.4 percent of the world’s population, and we own an astounding 42 percent of the world’s guns.
Recent research by University of Alabama professor Adam Lankford found that only one other nation, Yemen, has a higher rate of mass shootings than we do. Not surprisingly, it also ranks second in gun ownership.
Lankford found that the United States’ mental health problems are not appreciably different from those of other developed nations, nor are we more or less likely to play violent video games. Societal diversity and associated divisions also show little correlation to gun murders or mass shootings.
No need to take my word for this or even professor Lankford’s. Here are a few numbers to sober even the most ardent gun enthusiast.
In 2009, the United States’ gun murder rate was 33 lost souls per million people. In Great Britain and Canada, the same statistics are 0.7 and 5 per million. In numbers rather than percentages, this means that of gun-related deaths in the U.S. in 2013, there were more than 21,000 suicides, more than 11,000 homicides and more than 500 accidental gunshot deaths. During the same period, Japan, a nation and with a 150 percent lower gun ownership rate, recorded 13 gun-related deaths.
Yes, 13 – for the entire nation.
A landmark study from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1999 found that while our nation suffers no more violent crime than other developed countries, we are more likely to die from it. A person in New York is no more subject to robbery than a London resident, but she is 54 percent likelier to be killed in the process, most likely from a gunshot.
It is true that mass killings happen everywhere, including Switzerland, Finland, Britain and France. China has them as well, though most of those involve knives, not guns. We simply have more mass killings than anyone else on earth, again from gunshots.
Much has been written in recent years expressing the question of when the United States will reach its tipping point regarding the relationship between mass shootings and weak gun regulation, as other nations such as Britain have done. Many observers thought it would be Sandy Hook Elementary with 20 dead school children, Virginia Tech with 33 lost or the Orlando nightclub with 49 dead.
More recently, people have speculated that Las Vegas with 58 dead and more than 500 wounded would do it – or, just this month, the 26 dead in a Texas church.
So far, there has been little official discussion and no change.
Cynics say nothing will happen as long as the National Rifle Association gun lobby maintains its financial lockdown on our Congress, including North Carolina’s own U.S. Senators, Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, who have accepted $7 million and $4.4 million respectively in NRA campaign contribu- tions. Sadly, the cynics seem to be right.
British journalist Dan Hodges wrote this two years ago regarding the United States’ long-running debate over gun regulations:
“In retrospect, Sandy Hook marked the end of the U.S. gun control debate. Once America decided kill- ing children was bearable, it was over.”