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Shooting gallery America

Shooting gallery America

by Tom Sullivan


Yemen has the second-highest per capita firearm ownership in the world. The country with the highest in the world is the U.S. Us.

Researcher Adam Lankford of the University of Alabama examined databases for mass shootings across the world starting with the University of Texas clock tower shooting in 1966. The criminologist wanted to verify which country had the most mass shootings. He defined them as acts by individuals, not groups, who attacked others in public with firearms, “killing not only someone they had a grudge against, but also random strangers or bystanders.” Organized terrorism or acts of genocide fall outside the definition.

As one might expect, the United States came in first. Lankford spoke to Public Radio International’s “The World”:

“We had 31 percent of these offenders, despite the fact that we only have about 5 percent of the world’s population. So, we have well more than our share. And of course, that’s very concerning for a variety of reasons.”

Lankford says comparing the US with other large countries shows how serious America’s gun problem is: “China and India would be two clear examples, and yet they don’t have anywhere near the public mass shooter problem that we do.”

Lankford’s research is contained in his report, “Public Mass Shooters and Firearms: A Cross-National Study of 171 Countries.” Examining homicide rates, GDP, level of urbanization, and other factors didn’t produce a correlation between the countries with the most mass shootings. Per capita firearm ownership did:

“I was a little surprised that it wasn’t attributable to other things, like homicide rate or suicide rate. So, if you look at this on an individual level, these people are committing acts of homicide and they’re often committing acts of murder-suicide and they’re using firearms. But if you look cross-nationally, there are a lot of countries with more homicides and suicides than we have. And yet, they don’t have this problem. It really was the firearms, and I was surprised at the strength of that statistical association.”

Yemen ranks second in the rate of gun ownership, but with half the U.S. ownership rates. Yet the 11 mass shootings Lankford counted are not only different in number, as reporter Tik Root explained:

“The shootings that happen seem to have more relation to either tribal conflict or an ongoing dispute with something,” Root says. “The shootings that I heard about or saw in Yemen usually had maybe more of an explanation than they do in the US. You didn’t hear the mental health argument as much as usually a clear reason why somebody had used their gun.”

Root had lived in Yemen before civil war broke out in 2015, and told “The World” at open-air gun markets, one could buy most anything “from pistols to automatic weapons to [rocket-propelled grenades] RPGs. I saw tank shells and I’m told if you ask the right person you could get a tank itself.”

There is something else that makes the U.S different from other countries Lankford studied, something he didn’t mention on air: the National Rifle Association. Yemen sounds like an NRA wet dream.

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