In 2022, until now, two great massacres have mourned American society: the one in Buffalo, in which an 18-year-old murdered 18 people, and the one in Uvalde, Texas, in which another 18-year-old murdered several students in a school. On May 31, 2019, 11 people were killed in a shooting in Virginia Beach. On November 7, 2018, twelve people were killed in a shooting at a bar in Thousand Oaks, California. In November 2017, 25 people and an unborn baby were killed at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. A month earlier a man fired from a Las Vegas hotel at concertgoers, killing 58 people. In June 2016, Omar Seddique Mateen opened fire in a gay bar in the city of Orlando, leaving 50 dead.
These episodes join a long list of attacks in which an attacker has claimed the lives of several people in the same incident.
When it comes to mass killings, the United States has exceptional figures, as more shootings have been recorded in this country than in any other country in the world, according to a study.
Between 1966 and 2012 there were 90 mass shootings in the United States. According to the study, a mass shooting is an episode in which four or more victims die and does not include killings between gangs or murders involving several members of the same family. Among these shootings are the one in Orlando, the one in Aurora, Colorado, at a movie theater and the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, both of which occurred in 2012.
The 90 mass shootings in the United States are about a third of the 292 attacks that have been recorded in the world. While the United States has 5% of the world’s population, that country is involved in 31% of mass shootings.
“People have been shocked by these statistics,” says Adam Lankford, an associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Alabama, who did the analysis. Lankford presented his work at the annual conference of the American Psychological Association last year and says this is the first such research comparing global figures.
Are US shootings different?
Lankford reviewed incident records and found some common factors in incidents in the United States that set them apart from the rest of the world.
In that country people have a high probability of dying in mass shootings if they are at work or at school. In other countries such incidents typically occur near military installations.
In more than half of the cases in the United States, the attacker has more than one firearm. In international incidents, the attacker typically has only one weapon.
In the United States there is an average of 6.87 victims per incident, while in the other 171 countries that Lankford studied, the average is 8.8 victims per attack.
According to the researcher, fewer people die in shootings in the United States because the American police are usually trained in how to deal with these types of incidents, even though they do not tend to occur as frequently as other crimes.
“Police were slower to respond in other countries and more likely to be less prepared to respond,” Lankford said.
Why do shootings like the one in Uvalde happen in the US?The imitation phenomenon
What is behind these mass murders in the United States?
Many of the attackers in the United States were mentally ill, according to the report. But other studies estimate that the number of mentally ill cases has not increased significantly while the number of mass shootings has skyrocketed.
These attacks tripled between 2011 and 2014, according to an analysis by the Harvard School of Public Health and Northeastern University. Harvard research shows that public attacks in that period occurred on average every 64 days. For the previous 29 years, these occurred every 200 days or so.
In contrast, the overall rate of homicide and gun violence in the United States has fallen significantly over the past two decades.
Some researchers believe such massacres can be “contagious”: one death or shooting increases the chances of others occurring within two weeks. It is an “infection” that lasts about 13 days, as found in other studies.
This copycat phenomenon is more pronounced in the US because guns are more readily available to people than in any other country. “Access to firearms is an important predictor of these incidents,” says Lankford.
Family man targets easy access to guns in the US after Texas shootingThe US has more weapons than any other country. There are around 270 to 310 million weapons in circulation in the country. With America’s population of 319 million, that means nearly every American has a gun.
Just over a third of Americans say someone in their home has a gun, according to the Pew Research Center. The country with the largest number of guns after the United States is India, with 46 million guns in a population of over 1.2 billion. India does not even appear in the top 5 of the countries with the most mass shootings. The numbers show that more restrictive laws make a difference. Lankford points to Australia as an example. The country had four mass shootings between 1987 and 996. After that, public opinion turned against people being allowed to have guns, and Parliament passed stricter laws. Australia hasn’t had a shooting since then.
Is the desire for fame a factor?
However, there is not the same political will in the United States. With a few exceptions, Pew polling after many high-profile mass shootings suggests that Americans are more likely to favor gun ownership after such incidents.
Lankford has another explanation that he plans to explore in his next investigation.
“It’s harder to quantify, but I’ve been shocked by research showing that gaining fame is one of this generation’s most important goals,” Lankford said. “It seems that more and more Americans are seeking fame and there is no doubt that there is an association between the media coverage that these criminals get and the possibility that they will act.”
Lankford said that if there is anything good to be gained from his study, it is that the knowledge can help others prepare for the unthinkable.
“Our murder rate is higher than comparable European nations. Yet, if anything, it is these types of attacks that negatively distinguish us from the rest of the world and give us this violent reputation as a country,” Lankford said. . “Frankly, if we want to give the world a message of what we’ve learned from all of this, it would be to tell them that: ‘It is possible for these things to happen, so prepare and learn from them before you experience a tragedy yourself.”
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