What if gun control isn’t solely to blame for mass shootings in America?
With alarming regularity, shootings in America make the news across the planet, sometimes every other week. Horrific visuals of mayhem, tragedy, and pain fill our TV screens as we try to understand how the most powerful nation in the world helplessly suffers like this month after month, year after year.
We look at the statistics where only the United States amongst its peers sees mass murders take place with any regularity, and wonder what the hell is going on.
On the left, American politicians would have their citizens believe the problem simply stems from a lack of gun control, and the public eats it up.
But, what if this is simply not true, or not completely true? What if there is more to it? What if the truth is far more complicated and disturbing than what the average American would like to believe?
Surprisingly, homicides and other crimes related to guns are down considerably in the United States. On the other hand, mass public shootings are on the rise. According to a Harvard School of Public Health study, every 64 days, there is a mass public shooting in the United States. This is a shocking increase form one every 200 days in the 29 years previously.
So why isn’t someone doing something about it?
Guns are a religion in America. The debate over the loose interpretation of the second amendment of the American constitution, which allows citizens to arm themselves with the kind of high-tech weaponry found on battlefields, is as loaded a discussion in America, as a conversation over the blasphemy law is in Pakistan.
Americans against stricter gun control argue in favour of their constitutional right. On the other hand, those who demand tougher laws for gun ownership cite statistics. When they say the United States leads the world in mass shootings, they aren’t wrong.
A report by the Wall street Journal makes for grim reading. United States accounts for only five per cent of the world’s population, yet it claimed 31 per cent of the world’s mass shooters from 1996 to 2012. Another, more worrying statistic, comparing developed nations across the world, shows the United States leading with 133 mass shootings between the years 2000 and 2014. The next in line is Germany with six, Russia and China with four each, South African and Canada with three a piece, and other nations with either one or two mass shootings.
Troublingly, there are more mass shootings in the United States in a year than Norway, Finland, Switzerland, Israel, Germany, South Africa, Argentina, England, Russia, Canada, Mexico, China have had in 14 years combined.
US’s share of 133 mass shootings is out of a total of 166 between these nations. This statistic has only gone up. CNN states that there is a mass shooting now every two weeks in the United States, and once a month in a school.
Undoubtedly, there is a direct relationship between gun ownership and gun murders in any country. It is only logical to assume a person with murderous thoughts is more like to carry out his dark fantasies impulsively when a weapon is easily available.
So is this the only reason behind the mass shootings in America? Certainly, the left-wing American politicians such as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would like you to believe so. Time after time, Europe and Canada are cited as regions where mass shootings are rare due to low weapon distribution.
But what if this isn’t completely true? What if I told you the average American mass shooter doesn’t act impulsively, but plans his shooting until he is set off?
The Guardian recently published a data summary on gun murder statistics and gun ownership worldwide. When comparing the world’s most developed nations, the report makes for extraordinary reading.
There are 88.8 civilian firearms per 100 people in the United States. In the same nation, the firearm murder rate is 2.97 per 100,000 people. Compare that to Canada with 30.8 firearms per 100 people, which is three times as less, yet the firearm murder rate at 0.51 is six times as less. In short, Canadians do like their guns, but they don’t go around killing other people. It is a similar pattern for other developed nations.
In Norway, there are 31.3 firearms per 100 people, yet only 0.05 murders by firearms per 100,000 people. In Switzerland, there are 45.7 firearms per 100 people, but only 0.77 such murders per 100,000 people. Sweden has 31.6 firearms for every 100 people, yet only has a gun related death rate of 0.41 per 100,000. Germany has 30.3% firearms, and a firearm murder rate of 0.19 per 100,000. Finland? 45.3 firearms per 100 people, but a murder rate of only 0.45.
The statistics are unsettling to say the least. The differences in murder rates are beyond disproportionate. Let’s keep two facts in mind though. These nations have tighter checks and balances when it comes to firearms and the type of weapons on offer are far less sophisticated than what you’d find in the USA. That being said, it is a deep chasm.
Let’s ask the question no American politician is asking: With so many other developed nations boasting gun cultures, why is the gun related murder rate so much higher in America? Thirty one per cent of Canada carries firearms, yet only has had to deal with three mass shootings in 14 years. In America it is 133.
For politicians in America, the natural target is gun control. The argument is that if the United States carried the same gun control laws as its peers, if it copied the model followed by the United Kingdom and other countries of Europe, or Australia, it would see a dramatic drop in mass shootings.
As I said, this is fair assessment. You take away the guns and you take away the instruments of destruction. But is it really so simple? Are they claiming that if Canada sported three times as much gun-ownership, mass shootings would go up in the nation from three in 14 years to 133? If Switzerland had twice as many firearms as it does now per 100 people, its gun related murder rate would spike from 0.77 to nearly four times as much?
What if these mass shootings aren’t as much a gun control problem as we’d like to believe? To Democrats, the only correlation between mass shootings and are the weapons themselves. But what if these mass shootings are a symptom of a far graver and more worrying issue, a complicated problem so disturbing that American politicians would rather ignore it and concentrate on lobbying for gun control?
Let me ask you this. Does a normal well-adjusted person pick up a weapon and shoot little children at a school, or kill all of his co-workers in a spree of insanity? Why are these incidents so rare in European and Canadian regions where a significant proportion of the population boasts gun ownership?
Sure, stricter gun laws can reduce spur of the moment crimes, but most mass shooters carefully planned their acts for several weeks if not months. A man with time can acquire guns in a country with tougher gun laws if he sets his mind to it, which these Americans did. In Norway, Anders Behring Breivik started planning his attacks in 2002 before executing his horrific plans in 2011. If your country sells guns, there is no check in the world that can stop a methodical mass shooter.
Stricter gun control is only the beginning. America needs to understand why these mass shooters turn to murder in the first place. What’s more, when examining Europe and Canada, the politicians need to appreciate other things these nations are doing differently. There are things only America does that may play a major role in the birth of a mass shooter.
To start with, let’s examine the profile of a mass shooter.
In terms of background, shooters often come from homes where they face a varying combination of abuse and neglect. They may have acted out by hurting animals through torture.
They turn to mass murder because they have felt powerless or insignificant all of their lives and becoming a mass shooter puts them in control. They also have histories of depression.
Other experts suggest shooters in the work place kill after not achieving their dreams and goals. Having believed in the American dream they now feel let down by America.
According to CNN, invariably, the mass shooter carries a mental illness,
“Duwe found the most common illness associated with mass public shootings was paranoid schizophrenia, a type of schizophrenia in which the person has delusions of being plotted against or persecuted.”
Other still cite both poverty and substance abuse as deciding factors.
Finally, perhaps one of the most import factors is that of the most recent mass shooters, the majority were sons of single mothers.
Mass shootings are contagious
According to The New York Times, mass shooters are considered to be heroes by those considering their own killing spree. I suppose this is why a study published in PLOS ONE found that mass shootings are contagious, as long as they are covered sensationally in national media. Once a mass shooting occurs and is processed by the profiteering American media machine, the study finds that there is a 20 to 30 per cent chance of another shooting in two weeks by a vulnerable mind watching the event on TV.
America differs from the rest of the developed world in how it covers shootings.
AJ+ has an eye opening video, comparing Canadian and American coverage of a shooting. The differences are startling.
American news outlets such as CNN, FOX News and the like had no qualms about showing victims fighting to take another breath, or using the sort of presentation you’d find in an action film from Michael Bay or Ridley Scott.
The large fonts hit you with rapid frequency, while the analysts speculate nonsensically, as long as it makes for good, exciting, television and they win the ratings game. It is the sort of apathy for the victims you’d possibly find in a shooter himself.
On the other hand, the Canadian news channels exercised caution, showed sensitivity, and preached calm.
In spite of the study which states mass shootings are contagious, mainstream American media claims psychiatrists are divided on whether sensationalist coverage encourages shootings. It isn’t completely surprising however that those responsible for sensationalism don’t find fault with themselves.
Writing for The Atlantic, Zeynep Tufekci, a sociologist, is stupefied by how the American media, ‘swirls around’ mass killings like a ‘tornado’. He fears this sensationalism could be responsible for ‘creating a vicious cycle of copycat effects…’
American mothers can sometimes not afford to bond with their children.
It starts with childbirth. The United States is the only developed country in the world which doesn’t guarantee paid maternity leave. In a country where the cost of living is so high that often both parents have to work to make ends meet, or a single parent must most definitely work, to ask a mother to separate from her child during the most crucial part of its development where it bonds with its parent, is inhumane.
Another American issue is how mothers give birth. According to the documentary, The Business of Being Born, American mothers, unlike European ones, are often tricked into giving birth though unnatural means by hospitals more concerned with their bottom lines. This, again, has a psychological impact on both mother and child.
Is it any wonder that so many Americans are growing up without a healthy connection to their parents? Or so many suffer from, as psychiatrist Tony Farrenkopf calls it, ineffective parenting?
Foods banned by Europeans and Canadians for creating nerve damage are eaten by Americans.
Buzzfeed presents a short list of just a few substances consumed in America, yet banned in Europe. These items can cause birth defects, organ damage, hurt nerve cell development, and affect the nervous system. Some food dyes cause aggressive and reckless behaviour in kids.
America has a mental health problem.
A World Health Organisation (WHO) study concluded that mental health disorders are the highest in the United States. In fact, over a lifetime, the average American has a 47.4% chance of suffering from a mental sickness. Every year, 27 per cent Americans will suffer from a mental health condition. Comparatively, fewer citizens of other nations will suffer from such an illness.
But the real difference between America and other developed nations is in the way health care is delivered. Europeans and Canadians with psychological concerns can find help through universal health care. In America, on the other hand, health care is a disaster. Only 41.1 Americans suffering from mental health disorders find treatment.
A dog eat dog world
Unfortunately, cut throat capitalism has started to kill the soul of the United States of America. European nations and Canada not only support tighter gun control, but are also welfare states. They take care of their people. There is a vast difference between income equality in Europe as compared to America. Unlike America, the European middle class grows.
Americans have less vacation time, less disposable income, work harder and longer hours. Some American students feel like they don’t fit in, don’t belong, are lonely, and don’t have the connection with their mother to anchor them. They are fed lies about the evils of socialism and how their life is better, when it isn’t.
Meanwhile, mass shooters are found to often be in financial strife, or suffering from various mental health issues, such as paranoid schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder. Most mentally ill do not become mass shooters, but those mass shooters who do are most certainly mentally ill.
In essence, the greater the amount of mentally ill people, the greater the probably of one of them becoming a mass shooter.
The solution is not to be suspicious of every American showing signs of a mental illness, but to provide a support network, and more importantly, fight the factors which result in mental health issues. But to fight these factors means to rework how much of America functions itself.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.