The United States is by far the global leader in mass shootings, with only five percent of the world’s population, it has nearly a third of all gun-related massacres in the last 50 years, a new study has found.
Between 1966 and 2012, there were 90 mass shootings in the United States, 31 percent of the 292 such attacks globally for that period, according to a comprehensive analysis by Adam Lankford, a criminal justice professor at the University of Alabama.
The Philippines, with 18 mass shootings, was a distant second, followed by Russia with 15, Yemen with 11, and France with 10, according to the study.
“For decades, people have wondered if the dark side of American exceptionalism is a cultural propensity for violence and in recent years and perhaps no form of violence is seen as more uniquely American than public mass shootings,” Lankford wrote.
The study was presented this week at the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting in Chicago, Illinois.
The study suggests unprecedented gun ownership rates, an unhealthy obsession with fame and failure to achieve the so-called “American dream” are the primary reasons why the US leads the world in mass shootings.
The failure of the US health care system to treat mental illness is also partly to blame for America’s disproportionate share of mass shootings, Lankford said.
The analysis used data compiled from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the New York City Police Department (NYPD) on active shooting incidents in the US and around the world.
“Increasingly in America — perhaps more than in any other country on the globe — fame is revered as an end unto itself,” Lankford writes. “Some mass shooters succumb to terrible delusions of grandeur and seek fame and glory through killing. They accurately recognize that the only way they can guarantee that their names and faces adorn magazines, newspapers, and television is by slaughtering unarmed men, women, or children.”
Furthermore, the failed pursuit of the “American dream” drives some people, especially those with serious mental health issues, to mass violence, Lankford argues.
There are approximately 270 million firearms in US civilian households, an ownership rate of 88.8 guns per 100 people, according to a 2007 survey.
The shocking murder of two journalists carried out on live television this week in Virginia and the suicide of the assailant has Americans asking once again why these kinds of violent crimes happen with such frequency in their country.
Vester Lee Flanagan, 41, killed Alison Parker, 24, and photographer Adam Ward, 27, during a live broadcast on Wednesday by CBS affiliate WDBJ TV. Flanagan was a former employee at the television station.
US President Barack Obama said Wednesday he is heartbroken over the deaths and argued that Americans are overly focused on terrorism at a time when more deaths are being caused by gun violence.
To Learn More:
Study: Mass Shootings ‘Exceptionally American Problem’ (by Stav Ziv, Newsweek)
As Mass Shootings Continue, Congress Remains Gun Shy about Enacting New Laws (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)