But America's relationship with guns is unique in another crucial way: Among developed nations, the US is far and away the most violent — in large part due to the easy access many Americans have to firearms. This chart, compiled using United Nations data collected by the Guardian's Simon Rogers, shows that America far and away leads other developed countries when it comes to gun-related homicides. In December 2012, a gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and killed 20 children, six adults, and himself.
Even under this broad definition, it's worth noting that mass shootings make up a tiny portion of America’s firearm deaths, which totaled more than 32,000 in 2013. Whenever a mass shooting occurs, supporters of gun rights often argue that it's inappropriate to bring up political debates about gun control in the aftermath of a tragedy.
But if this argument is followed to its logical end, then it will never be the right time to discuss mass shootings, as Christopher Ingraham pointed out at the Washington Post. The good news is that all firearm homicides, like all homicides and crime, are on the decline.
Although America's political debate about guns tends to focus on grisly mass shootings and murders, a majority of gun-related deaths in the US are suicides.
Perhaps the reason access to guns so strongly contributes to suicides is that guns are much deadlier than alternatives like cutting and poison. She added, "[I]f we keep the method of suicide away from a person when they consider it, in that moment they will not switch to another method. The Australian study found that buying back 3,500 guns per 100,000 people correlated with up to a 50 percent drop in firearm homicides, and a 74 percent drop in gun suicides. This data and research have a clear message: States and countries can significantly reduce the number of suicides by restricting access to guns.
Fatal Encounters, a nonprofit, has tracked these killings by collecting reports from the media, public, and law enforcement and verifying them through news reports.
A huge majority of the 1,112 deaths on the map are from gunshots, which is hardly surprising given that guns are so deadly compared with other tools used by police. Given that states with more guns tend to have more homicides, it isn't too surprising that, as a study in the American Journal of Public Health found, states with more guns also have more cops die in the line of duty.


Researchers looked at federal data for firearm ownership and homicides of police officers across the US over 15 years. The findings could help explain why US police officers appear to kill more people than cops in other developed countries. Over the past 20 years, Americans have clearly shifted from supporting gun control measures to greater support of "protecting the right of Americans to own guns," according to Pew Research Center surveys. Although mass shootings are often viewed as some of the worst acts of gun violence, they seem to have little effect on public opinion about gun rights. Although Americans say they want to protect the right to bear arms, they're very much supportive of many gun policy proposals — including some fairly contentious ideas, such as more background checks on private and gun show sales and banning semi-automatic and assault-style weapons. For people who believe the empirical evidence that more guns mean more violence, this contradiction is the source of a lot of frustration.
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But since some shootings go unreported, the database is likely missing some, as well as the details of some of the events.
Under the Mass Shooting Tracker's definition of mass shootings, America has nearly one mass shooting a day.
But he did find one telling correlation: States with tighter gun control laws have fewer gun-related deaths.


There's still a lot of debate among criminal justice experts about why this crime drop is occurring — some of the most credible ideas include mass incarceration, more and better policing, and reduced lead exposure from gasoline. The data above, taken from a study by Australian researchers, shows that suicides dropped dramatically after the Australian government set up a gun buyback program that reduced the number of firearms in the country by about one-fifth. A study from Israeli researchers found that suicides among Israeli soldiers dropped by 40 percent — particularly on weekends — when the military stopped letting soldiers take their guns home over the weekend. Some of the data is incomplete, with details about a victim’s race, age, and other factors sometimes missing. There are also noticeable numbers of fatalities from vehicle crashes, stun guns, and asphyxiations. They found that states with more gun ownership had more cops killed in homicides: Every 10 percent increase in firearm ownership correlated with 10 additional officers killed in homicides over the 15-year study period.
For US police officers, the higher rates of guns and gun violence — even against them — in America mean they not only will encounter more guns and violence, but they can expect to encounter more guns and deadly violence, making them more likely to anticipate and perceive a threat and use deadly force as a result. This shift has happened even as major mass shootings, such as the attacks on Columbine High School and Sandy Hook Elementary School, have received more press attention. That helps explain why Americans' support for the right to own guns appears to be rising over the past 20 years even as more of these mass shootings make it to the news.
So if lawmakers are forced to wait for a time when there isn't a mass shooting to talk gun control, they could find themselves waiting for a very long time.
It also includes killings that were potentially legally justified, and is likely missing some killings entirely. In some cases, people died from stab wounds, medical emergencies, and what's called "suicide by cop," when people kill themselves by baiting a police officer into using deadly force.
But once these policies are proposed, they're broadly spun by politicians and pundits into attempts to "take away your guns." So nothing gets done, and preventable deaths keep occurring.



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