The US has lots of gun violence. It also has lots of guns.
In the wake of yet another unspeakable tragedy, in which 19 children and two teachers were murdered by a gunman in a Texas elementary school, one reason for the US’s steady stream of mass shootings seems obvious.
Right-wing politicians are quick to blame video games, race, mental illness, and literally anything else but guns for America’s high number of mass shootings. While it’s impossible to definitively say, “It’s the guns,” the sheer quantity of firearms in the United States is undeniable. The number of guns appears to be directly related to the number of gun deaths in America.
The US leads the developed world in gun deaths, with about 12 gun-related deaths per 100,000 people, according to data collected from GunPolicy.org. Not coincidentally, the country also has a lot more guns. For every 100 Americans, the US has 120 guns.
In response to the latest massacre, a number of politicians like Sen. Ted Cruz have suggested adding more guns to the mix by arming school teachers and security guards — a prospect that has no evidence of working. What’s needed is fewer guns.
However, in the face of mass shootings, states like Texas have responded by loosening gun laws. Most recently, Texas politicians passed a law making it so that people don’t need a license or training to carry a handgun. This law does not appear poised to make the problem of guns go away.
Other countries have responded aggressively to their own gun problems with success. In Scotland, after a similar school shooting in 1996, lawmakers banned private ownership of handguns and automatic weapons. There haven’t been any school shootings since. And in dealing with its own gun violence problems in the 1990s, Australia took and destroyed roughly 650,000 guns from private citizens as part of a buyback program. Rates of gun homicides and suicides plummeted.
There are many extenuating circumstances that lead to gun deaths in the US. Let’s start with the easy one: guns.