What explains the mass shootings in the United States? International comparisons suggest an answer: weapons

When the world looks at americahe sees a land of exceptions: a time-tested, if noisy, democracy, a crusader on foreign policy, an exporter of beloved music and movies.

But there is a peculiarity that constantly puzzles to fans and critics in the United States. Why, they ask, so many are produced mass shootings?

Perhaps, some speculate, it is because American society is unusually violent. or because their racial divisions they have severed the ties of society. Or because its citizens lack mental health care appropriate in a health care system that is often mocked abroad.

The only variable that can explain America’s high mass shooting rate is its astronomical number of guns. Photo: AFP/Fernando Castillo

These explanations have something in common: although they seem sensible, all were denied for the investigation into shootings in other parts of the world. On the contrary, a growing body of research systematically arrives at the same conclusion.

The only variable that can explain the high rate of mass shootings in the United States is its astronomical number of weapons.

What explains the mass shootings?

The headline figures suggest a correlation that, if investigated further, it becomes clearer.

Americans make up about 4.4% of the world’s population, but own 42% of the world’s firearms. Between 1966 and 2012, 31% of the perpetrators of mass shootings worldwide were Americans, according to a 2015 study by adam lankfordprofessor at the University of Alabama.

Adjusted to the population, only Yemen has a higher shooting rate massive among countries with more than 10 million people – a distinction that Lankford urges to avoid outliers. Yemen has the second highest gun ownership rate in the world, after the United States.

Lankford found that around the world, a country’s gun ownership rate is related to the odds of a mass shooting.

Customers buy guns in Los Angeles. Photo: Reuters

Customers buy guns in Los Angeles. Photo: Reuters

This relationship held even when the United States was excluded, indicating that it could not be explained by any other factors particular to their country. And it held up when you controlled for homicide rates, suggesting that mass shootings are best explained by a society’s access to weapons than by its level of base violence.

What not: crime, race or mental health

If mental health made a difference, the data would show that Americans have more mental health problems than people in other countries with fewer mass shootings. But the rate of mental health spending in the United States, the number of mental health professionals per capita, and the rate of severe mental disorders are in line with those of other rich countries.

A 2015 study estimated that only 4% of deaths by firearm in the United States could be attributed to mental health problems. And Lankford, in an email, said that countries with high suicide rates tended to have low mass shooting rates, the opposite of what would be expected if mental health problems were correlated with mass shootings.

The fact that a population play more or less video games It doesn’t seem to have any impact either. Americans are no more likely to play video games than people in any other developed country.

A Palmetto M4 assault rifle at a gun store in Colorado. Photo: Reuters

A Palmetto M4 assault rifle at a gun store in Colorado. Photo: Reuters

The racial diversity or other factors associated with social cohesion also show little correlation with firearm deaths. Among European countries, there is little relationship between immigration or other measures of diversity and rates of murder by firearms or mass shootings.

a violent country

The firearm homicide rate in the United States was 33 per million population in 2009, well above the average for developed countries. In Canada and Great Britain, it was 5 per million and 0.7 per million, respectively, which also corresponds to differences in gun ownership.

Americans sometimes see this as an expression of deeper problems with crimea notion entrenched, in part, by a series of films portraying urban gang violence in the early 1990s.

But the United States is actually no more prone to crime than other developed countries, according to a landmark 1999 study by Franklin E. Zimring and Gordon Hawkins of the University of California at Berkeley.

Rather, they found, in data that has been repeatedly confirmed since then, that American crime it’s just deadlier. A New Yorker is just as likely to be robbed as a Londoner, for example, but the New Yorker is 54 times more likely to be murdered in the process.

They concluded that the discrepancy, like so many other anomalies of violence in the United States, It came down to weapons.

Higher gun ownership corresponds to higher number of murders with firearms in almost all axes: among developed countries, among US states, among US towns and cities, and when controlling for crime rates. Y gun control legislation tends to reduce murders with weapons, according to a recent analysis of 130 studies from 10 countries.

This suggests that the weapons themselves are the cause of violence.

Mass shootings happen everywhere

Gun control skeptics sometimes point to a 2016 study. Between 2000 and 2014, the rate of deaths from mass shootings in the United States was found to be 1.5 per million people. The rate was 1.7 in Switzerland and 3.4 in Finland, suggesting that mass shootings in the United States weren’t really that common.

However, the same study revealed that there were 133 mass shootings in the United States. Finland only had two, in which 18 people died, and Switzerland had one, in which 14 died. In short, isolated incidents. So even though mass shootings can happen anywhere, just sIt’s a matter of course in the United States.

As with any crime, the underlying risk is impossible to completely erase. Any individual can explode or get carried away by a violent ideology. What is different is the likelihood that this will lead to a mass murder.

Teachers practice with rubber weapons. Photo: Reuters

Teachers practice with rubber weapons. Photo: Reuters

In China, in a dozen apparently random attacks on schoolchildren, 25 people were killed between 2010 and 2012. Most used knives; none used a firearm.

In contrast, in the same period, five of its mass shootings took place in the United States deadliest, in which 78 people died. In terms of population, US attacks they were 12 times deadlier.

Beyond the statistics

In 2013, gun-related deaths in the United States included 21,175 suicides, 11,208 homicides, and 505 deaths caused by accidental discharge. That same year, in Japan, a country with a third of the US population, guns were implicated in only 13 deaths.

This means that an American is about 300 times more likely to die from homicide or a gun accident than a Japanese. America’s gun ownership rate is 150 times higher than Japan’s. That difference between 150 and 300 shows that gun ownership statistics alone don’t explain what makes America different.

The United States also has some of the weakest controls in the world on who can buy a gun and what kind of weapons they can be had.

Switzerland has the second highest gun ownership rate of all developed countries, about half that of the United States. Its firearm homicide rate in 2004 was 7.7 per million population, an unusually high number, in line with the relationship between gun ownership and murder, though still a fraction of the rate in the United States. .

Swiss gun law is stricter, since it establishes a higher rod to obtain and maintain a license, to sell weapons, and to the types of weapons that can be owned. These laws reflect more than just tougher restrictions. They imply a different way of thinking about guns, as something that citizens must be affirmatively earned the right to have

The difference is in the culture

The United States is one of the only three countries, along with Mexico and Guatemala, that start from the opposite assumption: that people have an inherent right to guns.

The main reason why gun ownership regulation in the United States is so weak may be the fact that concessions are simply given a different weight in the United States than anywhere else.

After Britain had a mass shooting in 1987, the country instituted strict gun control laws. So did Australia after an incident in 1996. But the United States was repeatedly faced with the same calculus, determining that gun ownership relatively unregulated worth the cost to society.

That decision, more than any statistic or regulation, is what sets America apart the most.

“In retrospect, sandy hook it marked the end of the gun control debate in America,” Dan Hodges, a British journalist, wrote in a Twitter post two years ago, referring to the 2012 attack that killed 20 young students at a Connecticut elementary school. “Once the United States decided that killing children was tolerable, it was over.”.

The New York Times

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What explains the mass shootings in the United States? International comparisons suggest an answer: weapons