Why are there so many mass shootings in US?

October 7, 2017
Imran Khushal

By Imran Khushal

This time it’s Las Vegas. Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old man, killed at least 58 people and injured some more than 500 when he opened fire on a crowd of concertgoers on Oct. 1.

Paddock, who according to media reports had no previous criminal record and later killed himself, happened to stage the largest domestic mass shooting in U.S. history.

A mass shooting is an attack which involves killing of four or more people indiscriminately in a public place and the U.S have seen 7 such attacks so far in 2017.

According to U.S. the Federal Bureau of Investigation mass shootings are on the rise in America; research findings from Mother Jones and other institutes also confirm this alarming situation. But the question is why there are so many mass shooting in the U.S.?

And the answer could be somewhere in following assumptions which attempt to explain the surge of violence and mass shootings.

Availability of Firearms:

There is a correlation between large number of firearms and incidents of mass shooting in the U.S., BBC reported in 2016. According to the report, there are about 300 million guns in the country which killed about 1.4 million Americans from 1968 to 2011. This death toll is greater than the number of people killed in all the wars the U.S. fought.

According to data cited by a study of University of Alabama, about 88.8% Americans owned guns in 2007. The world’s second-highest rate of gun ownership is in Yemen, 54.8%.

People who believe that large number of firearms are the reason behind rising violence and mass shooting demand strict regulations on gun ownership, whereas lobby groups like the National Rifle Association, which claims to have a membership of around five million, oppose such demands.

Failure of U.S. Healthcare System:

According to different surveys 80% Americans believe that gun violence is a failure of their healthcare system to identify individuals who are a danger to the society. And despite the fact that after every incident of mass shooting the gun debate picks new heat, people on either side of the debate believe that keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill would prevent mass shootings.

However, researchers like Liza gold, a professor at Georgetown University, claims that people with serious mental illness are much more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators and mental illness is only weakly associated with violent behavior. She also argues that people with serious mental illness are responsible for only about 1% of gun violence in the country.

Dark Side of American exceptionalism:

Failure of the U.S healthcare system is one thing but a recent study by Adam Lankford, a criminology professor at University of Alabama, suggest that it is partly to blame for rise of mass shootings and there are other factors which are in play too.

Lankford argues that other than high rate of gun ownership the idolization of fame among U.S. mass shooters and “the dark side of American exceptionalism” are two important factors in mass shootings.

He argues that America’s cultural obsession with fame clearly plays a role in incidents of mass shootings and some mass shooters seek fame and glory through killing unarmed people and recognize that this is the only way of becoming famous. The professor also argues that obsession with fame combined with the failed pursuit of “American dream,” drives mentally ill people to mass violence.

Final thought; one thing which is common in all incidents of violence is availability of firearms. Whether a shooter or mass shooter is mentally sound or not, availability of a weapon is first thing to kill someone, so the most obvious step that U.S. can take to reduce mass shootings is reduce firearms availability.