Mass shootings: What’s wrong with America?

This is a terrible tragedy in Las Vegas and the mass shooting perpetrated by Stephen Paddock  even goes into the saddest chapters of the history books. But some small scale shooting with few people dead or wounded take place in America almost every other week. So maybe my question is too harsh but does America really care about this problem, or maybe not so much and why?

Mathieu DeflemProfessor, Department of Sociology, University of South Carolina

I think that you are, sadly, on to a truth here that we need to accept. But it does not relate to other shooting incidents with only one or two victims as much as it relates to the fact that mass shootings are not as rare as we would hope them to be. Mass shootings, in the United States especially, have to some extent become a phenomenon, that is almost a normal fact of life that we live with and that we feel we have to live with. So, to some extent also, we are more numb to these events than we ideally would be. We collectively also tend to forget about these events, especially as there is always another mass shooting that happens, in the US and elsewhere too. Through social media, we know all about these events that affect us to more or less of a degree. All of this said, it is still a momentous thing to happen and to wake up to as reported on the news this morning. But, yes, to some extent at least, mass shootings are now normalized events. The key issue now is to make sure we ask the right questions and do the right things to make a mass shooting very rare and exceptional again.

James NolanProfessor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, West Virginia University

Mass shootings are tragic forms of interpersonal violence that regularly arise anywhere when conditions are suitable.  As long as conditions in the United States remain the same (social, political, economic…), the same level of violence will occur next year and the next with only slight variation.  What prevents structural change of the magnitude needed to substantially reduce gun violence? Habits in thinking about economic and social justice, mental health policy, drugs laws, the availability of guns and gun rights, and the criminal justice system are among the roadblocks to change.  The tendency to focus on the shooters as the root of the problem, prevents a collective self reflection on the conditions that produce so many.

Amarnath AmarasingamFellow, Program on Extremism, George Washington University

I think the question of gun rights in the United States is very unique to the rest of the world. The 2nd Amendment and the way in which groups in the United States fight to preserve it is probably not something that makes a lot of sense for the rest of the world. In many other countries like Australia, when gun violence increased, they almost instinctively took steps in the form of gun control, which naturally had an impact on mass shootings. These conversations are much harder to have in the United States, not only because of the very influential gun lobby (with groups like the NRA), but also becomes it is much more deeply embedded in the culture. Having said, the majority of Americans do support things like background checks before gun purchases – the question is political will.



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