Monday 22 July 2019

Country where mass shootings are now an everyday occurrence

FBI agents search for evidence on a road near First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Photo: Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP
FBI agents search for evidence on a road near First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Photo: Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP

Ashley Kirk and Patrick Scott

America's latest mass shooting, at a church in Texas on Sunday, has left at least 26 people dead and 20 injured, making it the worst in the state's history.

It comes just one month after Stephen Paddock's gun attack at a Las Vegas country music festival, which left a record 59 dead and hundreds more injured.

The frequency of this kind of event risks anaesthetising us to the number of people who die from shootings in one of the world's most developed nations. The numbers are staggering.

1. Texas is often at the frontline of mass shootings

In 2015, there were 45 deaths from Texan mass shootings. In 2016, the state saw 39 victims. So far this year the total is 57.

While individual large tragedies may skew the data for particular years, Texas is consistently bad for gun violence.

After the Las Vegas attack, Nevada has suffered the most deaths from mass shootings this year - 59 - but it is also worst when we make the number proportional to a state's population.

Nevada has now had 20 mass shooting deaths per one million of its people in 2017 - with the next highest rates in Mississippi (7.7) and Kansas (3.8).

Having 27.9 million people, Texas has seen mass shootings claim the lives of 2.1 people for every million of its population.

2. Las Vegas wasn't the only mass shooting in America that day

Some 2,092km away in Lawrence, just outside the University of Kansas in Kansas, two men and a woman were killed and a further two people injured.

Mass shootings in America - defined by the website Gun Violence Archive as an event where at least four people are shot - are an everyday event.

The Las Vegas attack makes October the deadliest month for mass shootings this year.

3. A major mass shooting every two months

This year's deaths follow a depressing trend, according to data gathered by the Gun Violence Archive.

Some 346 people are estimated to have been killed in American mass shootings this year, compared to 432 in 2016, and 369 in 2015 - more than one person for every day of the year.

When it comes to major mass shootings (where more than four people are killed), there have been an average of just 72 days between events during the period 2010 to 2017, compared to 162 days from 2000 to 2010, according to data compiled by 'Mother Jones'.

The two worst mass shootings - October's Las Vegas shooting and the Pulse nightclub atrocity in Orlando - have occurred in the last two years.

4. Firearms sales go up after mass shootings

FBI data shows us that there have been 270 million firearms background checks since November 1998 - and the number is increasing as time goes by.

Such background checks, initiated through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (Nics), do not represent the number of firearms sold - but they do give us an idea as to interest in buying guns across the country.

In an alarming pattern identified by the 'New York Times', the fear of firearms restrictions is a significant driver of gun sales. December 2015 saw the highest number of background checks to date - at 3.3 million. This followed the San Bernardino terror attack in November in which 14 people died and after which Barack Obama called for tighter restrictions on the purchase of assault rifles.

5. 270 million guns for 320 million people

In 2007, the Small Arms Survey estimated there were between 250 million and 290 million civilian-owned firearms in the US - around 90 per 100 people.

This was the highest rate of civilian guns for any of the 178 countries surveyed and ahead of Yemen (55 guns per 100 civilians) in second place.

Higher rates of gun ownership correlate strongly with occurrences of mass shootings with the US top when it came to mass shootings per head in a study by Jaclyn Schildkraut of the State University of New York.

6. Mass shootings are just the tip of the iceberg

Between 2001 and 2013, 406,496 people died as a result of gun violence in America, according to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. The majority - 237,052 - were suicides. Homicides accounted for 153,144 deaths, while the rest comprised 8,383 accidental deaths, 4,778 deaths from police shootings and 3,200 where the cause couldn't be determined.

In this context, mass shootings make up a comparatively small proportion of overall gun deaths in the US, accounting for around 3pc of homicides in 2017 so far.

7. Americans can't agree on gun control

The debate over gun rights and restrictions is not a new one - and it's opened up every time another mass shooting catches the public's attention.

Latest polling from the Pew Research Centre shows 47pc of Americans support protecting gun rights compared to 51pc who support gun control (April 6, 2017). This polling has tightened over the last two decades when 65pc were in favour of gun control in May 1999 - ensuring the debate continues to rage on.

Irish Independent

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