The mass shooting in a bar in California that left 12 dead was carried out by a Vet, making it doubly tragic. The United States has never dealt with the trauma it has inflicted on a whole generation of young people by sending them to fight a fruitless and illegal war in Iraq and by failing quickly to end the US occupation of Afghanistan after the Taliban were defeated. Suicide rates among returnees are alarmingly high, and this mass shooting was a form of suicide writ large. More psychological help is needed for our Vets.
The far right initially tried to blame an immigrant, but that dog won’t hunt. The Las Vegas shooter, whom the US press has buried long ago, was not an immigrant. And, Britain has a lot of immigrants, too, but it has almost no gun murders.
The US policy of constantly endangering our children is enacted by a bought-and-paid-for Congress on behalf of 10 major gun manufacturers with an $8 billion industry. Most Americans don’t have or want a gun, and 50% of all guns in the US are owned by 3% of Americans, i.e. some 6 million people out of 320 million. That three percent would survive better security checks and a ban on assault weapons.
As of the end of last year, there were 1,624 mass shootings in 1,870 days in the United States.
You’ll note you don’t hear about mass shootings in Australia, Japan or for the most part the United Kingdom, or other civilized countries whose politicians have not been bought by 10 major gun manufacturers.
The United States continues to be peculiar in handing out powerful magazine-fed firearms to almost anyone who wants one and not requiring background checks on private purchases even if these are made at gun shows or by persons with a history of mental illness. 80% of civilian-owned firearms world-wide are in the US, and only Yemen vaguely competes with us for rates of firearm ownership; Yemen is a violent mess with Shiite insurgencies, al-Qaeda taking over cities from time to time, tribal feuding, southern separatism and US drone strikes. And even it has fewer guns per person than the USA.
It has gotten to the point where the increasing epidemic of mass shootings now threatens law enforcement (as in California on Wednesday and recently at the Tree of Life Synagogue).
The US is downright weird compared to civilized Western Europe or Australia (which enacted gun control after a mass shooting in 1996 and there have been no further such incidents).
In 2016-17 (the twelve months beginning in March), there were 32 fatalities from gun-related crimes in England and Wales (equivalent to 160 because Great Britain 1/5 the size of the US). (The murder rate was up in Britain because an apartment owner was charged with negligent homicide and suffocation when his building went up in smoke and killed over 80 residents; ‘firearms offenses’ were also up in London but few of these went so far as murder).
Police in the UK fired their guns 7 times in 2015.
Number of Murders by Firearms, US, 2017: 15,549
Number of Murders in the US in 2017: 17,284
Percentage of all Murders that were committed by firearms in 2017 in US: 89%
Suicides in US 2015: 44,193
Gun Suicides in US, 2015: ~22,000
Percentage of all murders in England and Wales that were committed by firearm: 4.5 percent.
Academic research shows that more guns equal more suicides.
Number of suicides in England and Wales, 2016: 5,668 (equivalent to about 28,330 in US or 36% lower)
Number of suicides by firearam in England and Wales, 2011: 84 (this is the most recent statistic I could find but the typical percentage is given as 1.6% of all suicides; that would be the equivalent of 707 suicides by firearm in the US instead of 22,000).
For more on murder by firearms in Britain, see the BBC.
The US has the highest gun ownership in the world and the highest murder rate in the developed world.
It seems pretty clear, as well, that many US suicides would not occur if firearms were not omnipresent.
There is some correlation between high rates of gun ownership and high rates of violent crime in general, globally (and also if you compare state by state inside the US):
In the case of Britain, firearms murders are 53 times fewer than in the US per capita. [Don’t bother with flawed citations of Switzerland or Israel, where most citizens are the equivalent of military reservists.]
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) December 2, 2015
Do hunters really need semi-automatic AR-15 assault weapons? Is that how they roll in deer season? The US public doesn’t think so.
PS this is a revised version of an older column; if they keep refusing to legislate rationally and go on causing these massacres, I can keep writing a similar column.
Related video added by Juan Cole: