Why The U.S. Leads The World In Mass Shootings


The U.S. is by far the global leader in mass shootings, claiming just 5 percent of the global population but 31 percent of the world’s mass shooters since 1966, says a new study reported by the Los Angeles Times. The Philippines, Russia, Yemen and France, all countries that can claim a substantial share of the 291 documented mass shootings between 1966 and 2012, collectively didn’t even come close to the U.S. What makes the U.S. such a fertile incubator for mass shooters? An analysis of the perpetrators, their motives and the national contexts for their actions suggests that several factors are at work.

They include a chronic and widespread gap between Americans’ expectations for themselves and their actual achievement, Americans’ adulation of fame, and the nation’s extent of gun ownership. Set those features against a backdrop of poorly managed mental illness, and that produces a uniquely volatile brew. With those conclusions, University of Alabama criminologist Adam Lankford set out to illuminate the darker side of American “exceptionalism.” His paper is being presented this week at the American Sociological Association annual meeting in Chicago. U.S. mass shooters were 3.6 times more likely to arm themselves with multiple weapons than were those who perpetrated similar crimes elsewhere, Lankford found. His said more weapons used in a mass shooting translated into more people killed.

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