Amid climbing gun sales and public outrage to change ‘what it is about the American way of life’ that continues to cause mass shootings to be too common within US borders, Washington politicians tackle an issue that has been ignored for too long. The New York Times and Associated Press compiled a list of the worst mass shootings since 1966 in western democratic countries and America occupies 14 of the 32 slots of the list with a combined 241 lives wasted. The U.S. holds the third through sixth largest body count incidences, and 76% of mass shooting deaths have occurred since 1990, and eight of the fourteen shootings occurred from 1999 to the present.
President Obama identified mental health, gun purchase and ownership laws, and “…a culture that too often glorifies guns and violence,” as factors of the problem, all of which are valid. Other multiply qualified members of the NY Times/AP list include Germany, France and Finland, all with two shootings on the list. The Guardian used data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime as well as the 2007 Small Arms Survey to rank 178 countries in terms of gun ownership and gun homicide. The U.S. is ranked first in ownership rate with 88.8 guns per 100 people and 60% of US homicides are caused by firearms. Finland ranks fourth with 45.3 guns per 100 people and 19.8% gun caused homicides. France ranks 12th with 31.2 guns/100 people and 9.6% gun homicides. The last list-companion, Germany, ranks 15th with 30.3 guns/100 people and 26.3% gun homicides. The correlation between rank and gun caused homicides is hardly remarkable, especially when looking at Central American nations which have exceedingly high homicide by gun rates for their relatively low gun ownership rates. However the fact that several higher ranking countries share the majority of the list of worst mass shootings cannot be ignored.
Citizens and policy makers alike need to ask themselves the question, “Do more guns really make the country any safer?” and “What do average citizens really need guns for?” Each tragedy such as this causes a brief reflection on such issues as the efficacy and availability of mental health treatment and responsibility and necessity (or lack thereof) of gun ownership. But one thing is certain, if Americans fail to change anything, another Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora theater, or Newtown will happen again.