On May 24, 2022, the massacre in Uvalde, Texas became the 213th mass shooting in the U.S so far this year.
Within the five days that followed Uvalde’s shooting, there were 11 more mass shootings across the U.S.
Didn’t hear about them? That’s because this country has normalized mass shootings and gun violence to the extent that “smaller” shootings, i.e. those with fewer victims and not located at a school where elementary school children are involved, barely make the news.
Politicians and the NRA claim that guns and gun laws aren’t the problem. So why aren’t mass shootings happening in other high-income countries like they are here? Turns out, those countries have figured out something we haven’t yet (spoiler alert: it’s gun control laws).
Let’s take a look at why recurring mass shootings are a uniquely American experience.
Let’s start with the U.K.
A lone shooter killed 16 people in 1987. Despite having a culture of gun ownership, the government banned semi-automatic weapons that were similar to what he used in the attack. The legislation was inspired by several influential grassroots campaigns.
Then, the deadliest mass shooting in British history took place in 1996 at a school in Scotland where the shooter used handguns. In response, the U.K. banned most handguns.
Today, the U.K. boasts one of the lowest gun-related death rates among high-income countries. The threat of mass shootings and gun-related violence is so low that even most U.K. police officers are not permitted firearms.
Next is Australia. The country experienced a horrific mass shooting in 1996 when a single gunman killed 35 people in Port Arthur. The then-conservative Australian government launched a widely successful buy-back gun program that collected nearly one million firearms according to some reports, along with banning almost all semi-automatic rifles and shotguns.
What’s especially pertinent is that Australia had long treated gun ownership as an inherent right, much like the U.S. After the Port Arthur shooting, however, that right was reframed to being a privilege that citizens had to earn, which included joining a national registry, waiting 28 days before receiving a gun, and a licensing process that requires having a valid reason to own a gun.
Since these efforts, the rate of mass shootings in the country has decreased from one every year and a half to just one in the 26 years that followed Port Arthur.
The Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, told CBS News back in 2015,
“Staying alive and being free from random attack is a far more precious right than gun ownership.”
Germany, Norway, And New Zealand
In 2009, a teenage gunman murdered 16 people in a mass school shooting in Germany. Just months later, the government responded by passing a series of stricter gun laws, including raising the age limitation on large-caliber weapons from 18 to 21 years old.
In 2011, a far-right terrorist attack killed 77 people in Norway. It took years, but a ban on semi-automatic weapons went into effect in 2021 in response to the shooting.
In 2019, a gunman opened fire on two mosques in New Zealand, killing 50 people. This led lawmakers to ban military or assault-style semi-automatic guns — just one week later. Gun-related deaths plummeted as a result.
These examples, along with a multitude of studies, reiterate what most people should already know: when countries implement tighter gun control laws, there are fewer guns in circulation, which leads to less gun violence, including fewer mass shootings.
Women in the U.S. are 28x more likely to be killed by guns than women in other high-income countries.
Yet, these horrific stats and the recent tragedy of Uvalde are not enough to change the talking points of NRA-funded politicians who refuse to take any action on gun control. What will be enough? When it happens to their children?
Grassroots campaigns. Limiting access to firearms. Increasing the legal age to purchase firearms. Banning assault-style weapons. Banning handguns. Making background checks mandatory. Implementing an extensive waiting period before a gun can be taken home. Reframing the conversation from an individual’s right to own a gun, to their right to earn that gun through a comprehensive legal process.
The data proves these strategies work. So, why won’t our representatives give them a try?