Mass Shootings, Our American Brand

By Lawrence Pfeil, Jr.

Less than two weeks after the execution of ten people in Buffalo, New York, the slaughter of twenty-one in Uvalde, Texas has again torn apart the soul of our nation.  Before we had time to heal the grief and outrage from one mass shooting, or all its victims be laid to rest, another gunman armed with a legally purchased weapon of war slaughtered nineteen 10 year-old school children and two adults.

In horrific tragedies it’s easy to lose perspective on the number of the lives lost, so give yourself this reality check. Take a handful of change and lay out before you ten coins.  Look at them — that’s how many African Americans were shot dead at Tops Supermarket.  Now add nine more coins and look at them.  That’s how many little fourth graders were gun downed with an AK-15 assault rifle.  Add two more for the adults trying to protect them.

That is what body counts from a mass shooting look like.

It will happen again.  They’re more deadly and happening with greater frequency, and will happen sooner rather than later.

Reporters, pundits, and politicians are going through the familiar cycle of trying to make sense of another senseless mass shooting, expressing their outrage, blaming everybody else, and demanding somebody “Do something!.”  What is different is the new gun and gun violence data.

There are 393 million guns in private hands or 120.5 guns per 100 people.  (The next closest is Yemen with 52.8 guns and they’re in an active war).

Since 2000, firearm sales have gone from 10M/year to 40M/year.

This chart from an article in The New York Times shows the US compared to the world in public mass shooting from 1998 – 2019.  By way of reference, it only represents public mass shootings; 61% occur in the home, and “mass shooting” is defined as four or more people killed, not shot.

 

“Despite having 4 percent of the world’s population, the U.S. made up 31 percent of all public mass shootings globally between 1966 and 2012.”

– Adam Lankford, Professor of Criminal Justice, in his 2015 study

Long woven into our nation’s lore is the belief in “American Exceptionalism,” that our nation is uniquely and inherently superior to all others.  But as the light of historical facts and the racial truth in its full story are revealed, that scared mythology is dispelled. Yet there is still incontrovertible evidence of American exceptionalism.

America is exceptionally unique and inherently superior at gun violence, gun deaths, and mass shootings.

What would be an abject disgrace to any other country is our American brand to the world.  And we have no one to blame but ourselves.  By we I mean us – not “them,” not elected leaders, not the New Right, but you, me, all of us.

56% of Americans support a ban on assault weapons

86% of Americans support a Red Flag law

89% of Americans support Universal Background Checks

The majority of Americans want gun reform and have so for years; but our elected officials fail to implement it and we keep electing them.

We don’t hold them responsible and accountable for every man, woman, and child slaughtered by an assault rifle.

We are being held hostage by a small minority of unbridled gun activists and we are letting them.

Several years ago, in the wake of another mass shooting, I remember someone saying if we really wanted to put an end to the NRA, gun reform activists should take a counterintuitive action.  They should overwhelmingly join the NRA.  Outnumbering the gun fanatics, they could vote out everyone and everything standing in the way of reform and dismantle the NRA in the process.

We didn’t do it and this weekend the NRA will holding its leadership conference in Houston and partying while the children of Uvalde lie in the morgue.

For half a century, women in need of a legal abortion and their providers have been terrorized as “murderers” outside of clinics in the name of “saving lives.”  Like it or not, it was affective.  In the 1980s and 90s, ACTUP staged massive, dramatic, news grabbing protests demanding AIDS research and treatments to save their lives.  ACTUP saved tens of millions of lives around the world.

What are we going to doing to save just one life in the next predicable and inevitable mass shooting made in America?

 

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