“Dark Side Of American Exceptionalism:” U.S. Ranks No.1 In Most Mass Shootings

August 28, 2015  |  

President Barack Obama hugs members of Sen. Clementa Pinckney family during his funeral in Charleston, SC. Pickney was one of nine killed in the mass church shooting in June 2015. (Paul Zoeller/The Post and Courier)

The United States seems to be quickly falling from its coveted place as a leading developed country with widespread violence taking over. A new study found the U.S. now leads in the most public mass shootings of any other country.

From the recent on-camera deaths of Virginia journalists to a fatal shooting Thursday at Savannah State University, public shootings have sky-rocketed in the country. From 1996 to 2012, there have been 90 mass shootings across the states, and while Savannah and Virginia show the state of violence in America they don’t actually qualify as “mass shootings.”

In the study, mass shootings include four or more victims and exclude gang or family-related murders. This summer’s racially charged shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina and 2012’s Aurora,Colorado movie theater deaths would qualify as mass shootings.

The U.S. accounts for 5 percent of the world’s population, but 31 percent of all mass shootings. The Harvard School of Public Health and Northeastern University found mass shootings to have tripled from 2011 to 2014.

So, what is happening in America that accounts for such a rapid growth in mass shootings?

Apparently, these shootings have a copycat effect where one shooting often means someone else will be empowered to go about their deadly plans. It is also a bit easier for these shootings to take place in America because of the ease in purchasing a gun.

“(Access to) firearms (is) a significant predictor of these incidents,” said lead analysis Adam Lankford. Lankford is an associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Alabama and calls the shootings the “dark side of American exceptionalism.”

The U.S. has around 300 million firearms in circulation with a population of 318.9 million. India has the second-highest gun circulation, 46 million but they also have a larger population of 1.25 billion and yet they don’t even make it into the top five countries with mass shootings.

Besides the copycat idea, Lankford is also researching how Americans’ high desire for fame impacts the rise in mass shootings.

“It’s harder to quantify it, but I’ve been struck by research that shows that being famous is one of this generation’s most important goals… and there is no doubt that that there is an association between media coverage that these offenders get and the likelihood that they will act,” said Lankford.

Gun laws clearly play a role in how likely it is these shootings can happen at such a high rate. In Australia, there were four mass shootings between 1987 and 1996. The country was shaken and asked for stricter gun laws, there hasn’t been a mass shooting since. But Americans are different, when polled many had the desire to own more guns (and more relaxed laws) due to the shootings.

“It’s a bigger problem today than it was a decade ago and it may be a bigger problem in the future,” Lankford told Newsweek.

I can honestly say I have become even more aware of my surroundings and the threat of a shooting to occur due to the frequency in which these shooting are taking place. Living in a over-crowded city such as New York, doesn’t help. Every school, church, theater shooting has me wondering what society will look like for my children.

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