The numbers, like the bodies, keep piling up. Mass shootings in the United States are so frequent, now, that we have a difficult time keeping track, of remembering the details of any specific murderous rampage, of separating the tragic stories of one city from another. Was the downtown shooting in Cincinnati at a yoga studio? Or was that Tallahassee? Was it in South Carolina where all the police officers were shot? Yes. Seven. Florence County.
We have read the troubling news bulletins to a string of recent terror. Late last month, there was the Pittsburgh synagogue slaughter in which a gunman, shouting, "I just want to kill Jews," did just that — 11 worshippers on the Sabbath. And this past Wednesday, in the 12th mass shooting since Pittsburgh, 12 people — mostly kids in their 20s — were killed at a bar in California.
These numbers, these incidents, have now claimed their pages in the ignominious and expanding tome of American gun violence along with the stories out of Las Vegas, 59 dead, 422 injured from gunfire; Orlando, 50 dead, 53 injured; Virginia Tech, 33 dead, 23 injured; Sandy Hook Elementary, 28 dead, 2 injured; Sutherland Springs, 27 dead, 20 injured. Do you remember how many were killed at the San Ysidro MacDonald's? At Stoneman Douglas? Columbine?
Mostly, it is all a blur. But in total, that this is happening is a sad and dispiriting commentary on our collective lack of gumption to write law that targets access to weapons.
Gun Violence Archive tracks gun violence in the U.S. Here is how it defines a mass shooting: an event in which four or more people — excluding the shooter — are shot in any one location. By those standards, there have been 311 mass shootings in America in 2018. The human toll: 314 killed, 1,270 wounded.
There is a ton of guns in America — far more than any other country. In an analysis by the Small Arms Survey for 2017, the U.S. had 120.5 guns per 100 residents. The math is easy — more firearms than people.
Why is that? Well, Americans like guns and the freedom to own. And, because of that, U.S. laws are uniquely weak. Other developed nations require — at the very least — one or more background checks along with training courses and rules for locking up firearms. Licensing is strict, as are justifications for owning.
The result of a gun-loving population and laws that allow easy access? Research, compiled by the Harvard School of Public Health's Injury Control Research Center, is clear: Places with more guns have more gun deaths. The U.S. has nearly six times the gun homicide rate of Canada and nearly 16 times that of Germany, according to United Nations data for 2012.
The living victims of these mass shootings — the moms and dads, the brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors, others who were in the bar when shots rang out — are asking for action. And if America is truly a compassionate country, as we often tell ourselves, we should listen and then we should act.
We believe in the Second Amendment. And we are not coming for anyone's guns. But we believe we can do better in providing for the general welfare and safety of all by restricting access to weapons. Until we accept the facts, until we examine the stats, until we acknowledge the reality, then history has proven the mass shootings will continue apace.