Why does the U.S. experience so many mass shootings? Is American society unusually violent? Is it due to racial divisions have frayed the bonds of society or a poor mehtal health treatment system. The New York Times says those theories have been debunked by research on shootings elsewhere in the world. The only variable that can explain the high rate of mass shootings in the U.S. is its astronomical number of guns, the Times concludes.
Americans make up 4.4 percent of the global population but own 42 percent of the world’s guns. From 1966 to 2012, 31 percent of the gunmen in mass shootings worldwide were American, said a study by Adam Lankford, a professor at the University of Alabama. Adjusted for population, only Yemen has a higher rate of mass shootings among countries with more than 10 million people. Yemen has the world’s second-highest rate of gun ownership after the United States. Worldwide, Lankford found, a country’s rate of gun ownership correlated with the odds it would experience a mass shooting. This relationship held when he controlled for homicide rates, suggesting that mass shootings were better explained by access to guns than by the baseline level of violence.