Imagine, if you will, being completely
socially cut off. I don’t mean a period of falling out with your closest friends. I mean months, even years, of not receiving a single text, going on a date, hanging out with friends or having any human contact except for mocking comments hurled your way between classes. Take a moment to put yourself in that mindset of total isolation. All you do is watch Netflix or play video games all day, every day. Now consider, on rare occasion, turning your television over to a major news network. If you’re tuning in at any point in the last week, you’re just about guaranteed to see news about the Parkland shooter, Nikolas Cruz. Most mass shootings – not all of them, but most – become instant national phenomenons. It begins with 24/7 news coverage discussing the type of gun used, the aspects of the shooter’s daily life and their mindset before and during the shootings. All these people do is kill, and they capture American fascination.
Are you still keeping the vision of being a complete social outcast in mind? Good. Consider yourself watching this heated analysis on CNN where they broadcast intense town halls and promote trending hashtags. Consider being someone with no skills, no talents and no possible route to achieve what you so desperately desire, more than anything else – to be noticed. You can’t become noticed with your charisma, skills or intelligence – but who needs that? The media has shown you a quick and easy method of getting attention.
Where do guns themselves factor into this equation? It’s simple – they’re a tool, nothing more and nothing less. Even in societies that have completely eliminated firearms from their civilian population like the United Kingdom, the rates of violent crime and mass assaults with acid and homemade bombs are on par with the rest of Europe, and exactly the same as the U.S. – while being much higher than states like Switzerland. In fact, the number of firearms owned by the civilian population and the amount of violent crime and mass shootings in that nation have no correlation whatsoever. Look at three separate nations with the same rate of gun ownership per 100 civilians – Mexico (15), Luxembourg (15.3) and Mauritius (14.7). The murder rates per 100,000 people in those three countries are 10.91, 1.45, and 3.08, respectively. In almost any given nation, there’s no correlation between the two variables. The U.S. has the highest average firearm ownership rate in the world at a massive 101 guns per 100 residents, yet its homicide rate comes in at #94 globally – 4.88 homicides/100,000 residents, and is falling yearly. The global correlation between the amount of guns in a nation and how many people are murdered there annually is insignificant, and the number of guns in the U.S. simply isn’t enough to account for its abnormal, and enormously high rate of mass, or “rampage” shootings, defined here as a single incident in which four or more people are killed, unrelated to gang violence or a seperate, non-homicide crime in the same incident such as armed robbery. The fundamental difference between the U.S. and nations like Norway and France clearly isn’t firearms. Why, then, do these nations have so few mass shootings and we have so many?
Let’s look back at how a country like Norway handles mass shootings. Norway is home to the single deadliest mass shooting incident of all time, where a shooter massacred 77 people in July of 2011 with a coordinated car bombing and one-man assault on a political training center. The shooter was arrested, then quietly tried and sentenced in 2012. That same year Americans watched news stories covering the Aurora attack, the Sandy Hook massacre and countless other episodes of mass shooting. Although Norway’s tragedy left a permanent imprint on its culture, little attention was paid to the weapon used, the shooter’s manifesto or the details of his personal life, though all were deeply storied. The Norwegian media staunchly refused to make a murderer a hero – even if intensive coverage boosted ratings.
Norway has not had a single mass shooting in its history other than the 2011 massacre. Since 2011, the United States of America has suffered 53 mass shootings according to Mother Jones and CNN statistics using the above definition. The number of shootings in 2017 (13) is more than three times the four mass shootings in 2012. There aren’t more weapons in America today than there were seven years ago, yet every year we reach new heights in raw numbers of shootings by nearly any metric. The underlying problem – the cause of this rise – is not the tools that these people use. It’s the culture we’ve built up around them. And as long as the next disgruntled outcast looking for a quick route to fame can turn on their television two weeks after a massacre to hear the latest details of a murderer’s manifesto, that’s not going to change.
Contact Max Goldenberg at [email protected]