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Mass Shootings in America

Mass Shootings in America

The mass shooting, the scourge of America, the systemic problem and blemish in the fabric of America. Politicians over a 37-year period in which the violence has been increasing, offer thoughts and prayers, but very little action to create meaningful change to increase safety within the boundaries of this country. According to Gun Violence Archive in 2022, there have been more than 250 mass shootings in the United States with the three most recent tragic and senseless losses of life being…

1.) The elementary school shooting in Uvalde, TX which left dead 19 children and 2 teachers.

2.) The racially motivated Buffalo, NY supermarket shooting which left 10 dead and 3 injured.

3.) The Tulsa Oklahoma Hospital Shooting which left dead 2 doctors, 1 hospital patient, and 1 hospital receptionist.

All three of these heinous acts occurring in the span of just 2 months here in America. The incidence of this form of gun violence is on the rise in the United States with about 771 incidents in the country in 2021 compared to 661 incidents in 2020 and 417 incidents in 2019. Speaking for 2022 alone the longest stretch of time without a mass shooting occurring in the country was during the month of June, which after the Tulsa Oklahoma hospital shooting, there was a 29 day stretch without report of mass shooting in the country.

To further dissect the problem of mass shooting we must first know what experts say constitutes a mass shooting. While the definition is highly debated, the Congressional Research Service defines it as multiple firearm homicide incidents, involving 4 or more victims at one or more locations close to one another. The FBI then further states that this category of violent crime is generally excluding gang killings, domestic violence, or terrorist acts sponsored by an organization. Following this definition of this category of gun violence, the United States is a statistical leader in comparison to any other country in the world.

In recounting some of the deadliest and most heavily media covered mass shootings occurring in the United States here is the following list that comes to mind….

1. Las Vegas concert shooting, October 1st 2017- 58 killed

2. Orlando night club shooting, June 12th 2016- 49 killed

3. Virginia Tech shooting, April 16th 2007- 32 killed

4. Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting, December 14th 2012- 27 killed

5. Sutherland Springs Church Shooting, November 5th 2017- 25 killed

6. Luby’s Shooting Killeen Texas, October 16th 1991- 23 killed

7. El Paso Walmart Shooting, August 3rd 2019- 23 killed

8. San Ysidro McDonald’s Shooting, July 18th 1984- 23 killed

9. Robb Elementary School, May 24th 2022- 21 killed

10. University of Texas Tower Shooting, August 1st 1966- 18 killed

11. Parkland Highschool, February 14th 2018- 17 killed

12. Columbine Highschool shooting, April 20th 1999- 13 killed

13. Aurora Colorado Movie Theater Shooting, July 20, 2012- 12 killed

14. Mother Emanuel AME Church Shooting, June 17th 2015- 9 killed

What are the demographics relating to mass shootings in America?

According to the New York Times the vast majority of mass shooting perpetrators have been Caucasian males of middle age. The Associated Press states that of this group Caucasian men comprise of nearly 50% of all mass shooters in the US. Felony mass shootings, those connected with a previous crime, tend to be committed by young Black or Hispanic males with extensive criminal records, typically against people of the same ethnic group. In 2013 the Journal of Forensic Sciences, posted a study of sociodemographic characteristics and predilecting behaviors in 119 lone attackers between the US and Europe. Their findings demonstrated that 96.6% of perpetrators were male and a subset of 106 males for which relationship data was available, 68.9% were never married or had been divorced/separated from spouse, and only 27.7% were reported to have children. To a lesser degree there is the radicalized teenage/adolescent individual seen to be the primary perpetrator of mass shootings occurring at schools.

What are the contributing factors for this form of gun violence in America?

1. Ease of accessibility to firearms- The United States is an extremely gun loving society with a free market that allows citizens to own practically whatever they want as long as they have the cash to buy it and/or can afford to buy a permit or federal tax stamp to own it. The US has the highest per capita gun ownership in the world with roughly 120.5 firearms per 100 people. It is estimated that there are over 400 million guns in the United States between police, military, and civilians. It has been seen in studies where states with more permissive gun laws and greater gun ownership had higher numbers of mass shootings with an increasing divide between permissive and restrictive states. A study of relationship between state gun laws and lethality of mass shootings between 1976-2018 found that laws requiring permits to purchase a gun are associated with a lower incidence of mass public shootings, and bans on large capacity magazines are associated with fewer fatalities and nonfatal injuries when such events do occur.

2. Mental Health- A major impediment in the task of gun violence control has been navigating issues of patient health information confidentiality afforded in Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) pertaining to the inclusion of mental health history in background checks for purchase of firearms. It should be a universal and common goal of gun regulation to have measures in place to serve as barriers to acquiring firearms for individuals with known mental health history or deranged behavior that could pose a danger to the general public.

3. Socioeconomic and sociocultural factors- Flares in mass shootings tend to occur during periods in the country of socioeconomic/geopolitical downturn. A common thread amongst perpetrators of mass shootings have been factors of narcissism, social rejection, common experience of childhood trauma/exposure to violence, has reached a critical personal crisis point in the weeks/months prior to shooting, has researched mass shootings (many radicalized through the internet), and has obtained ammunition and firearms to carry out the act. The Violence Project's comprehensive mass shooting database showed that mass shooters share a sense of entitlement and seek scapegoats when they fail to achieve goals in life and lash out in attack due to difficulty coping with negative life changes. Also of note is that hate-motivated and fame-seeking mass shootings have increased in number since 2015.

In summary mass shootings have become far too common place in American society due in part to a romanticism of gun culture, ever present and increasing supply of guns, lack of universal and comprehensive background checks and training requirement mandates for gun ownership, and lack of easy access and stigmatization of mental health care and counseling services for adults and adolescents. Hopefully, the newly passed gun bill will begin to address some of the aforementioned issues, but only time will tell truly how effective these policies will be to curb the violence. It comes a time when “thoughts and prayers” can no longer be good enough. These thoughts and prayers aren’t good enough to erase the anguish of the victim’s families, they aren’t good enough to erase the void left behind by the unfulfilled potential of our slain young people, and they aren’t good enough to make you feel safe again to congregate in schools and crowded common places in society. In a society with over 400million guns only about one 1 in 4 American gun owners take formal firearm education with even fewer learning about suicide prevention. If you are a citizen sick and tired of these dismal statistics and strategies get politically active voice your opinion, make your voices heard at the polls and at town hall meetings. Hold your elected officials accountable for living up to their charge of representing the people they serve instead of companies/industries they may receive campaign contributions from. There are ways in which we can create a safer society without eliminating individual’s rights to bear arms, however these solutions require effort and collaboration on the part of private citizens, local, state, and federal government. If you are a gun owning American, do your part to contribute to a safe society by engaging in regular and formal firearm training to ensure you and your firearm are an asset to your family and society and not a liability. Above all else exercise tolerance, compassion, and empathy toward others’ views and feelings as we navigate through these difficult and uncertain times, remembering that we are all in this together.

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