What we know about the Florida school shooting

1) We’re the only country in the world where this is a regular part of life.  This does not have to happen.  This is a policy choice we make with how we choose to not regulate guns.

2) The shooter used an AR-15 and had multiple magazines.  This is the civilian version of the M-16 used by the US Military.  That is, a weapon designed not in the least for self defense from “bad guys” or for hunting animals, but a weapon designed to kill other human beings in large numbers.  Pretty much any adult American who does not have a felony record can buy one of these and unlimited quantities of ammunition.

3) Obviously, this guy was severely mentally impaired in some way.  People with healthy brains don’t go into schools and start shooting people.  There’s no evidence whatsoever that there’s something about America that gives us an abnormally high number of people with murderous, unhealthy brains.  The clear obvious difference is how absurdly easy it is for these people to obtain guns in America.

While we’re at it, this remind me of a nice post from Dylan Matthews back in August.  We don’t have a mental illness problem (that is, in any uniquely American sense); we have a gun problem:

But the convenient cries of “mental health” after mass shootings are worse than hypocritical. They’re factually wrong and stigmatizing to millions of completely nonviolent Americans living with severe mental illness.

The share of America’s violence problem (excluding suicide) that is explainable by diseases like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder is tiny. If you were to suddenly cure schizophrenia, bipolar, and depression overnight, violent crime in the US would fall by only 4 percent, according to an estimate from Duke University professor Jeffrey Swanson, a sociologist and psychiatric epidemiologist who studies the relationship between violence and mental illness…

The difference isn’t that mental illness is more prevalent in the US than in other countries. It’s not even that the US has worse access to mental health care — that’s true, but it’s hard to see why it would lead to more homicide, but not more of any other violent crime, in the US.

Instead, a major factor is that the US has a lot more guns floating around. [emphasis mine] Swanson offers an example: “Imagine three immature, impulsive, intoxicated young men who come out of a pub in the UK in the middle of the night and get into an argument. There, somebody gets a black eye and a bloody nose. In one of our big cities, it’s statistically more likely someone has a firearm, so you’re likelier to get a dead body.”

Likewise, a great NYT piece from November looking at America’s mass shootings in international context:

When the world looks at the United States, it sees a land of exceptions: a time-tested if noisy democracy, a crusader in foreign policy, an exporter of beloved music and film.

But there is one quirk that consistently puzzles America’s fans and critics alike. Why, they ask, does it experience so many mass shootings?

Perhaps, some speculate, it is because American society is unusually violent. Or its racial divisions have frayed the bonds of society. Or its citizens lack proper mental care under a health care system that draws frequent derision abroad.

These explanations share one thing in common: Though seemingly sensible, all have been debunked by research on shootings elsewhere in the world. Instead, an ever-growing body of research consistently reaches the same conclusion.

The only variable that can explain the high rate of mass shootings in America is its astronomical number of guns… [emphases mine]

Worldwide, Mr. Lankford found, a country’s rate of gun ownership correlated with the odds it would experience a mass shooting. This relationship held even when he excluded the United States, indicating that it could not be explained by some other factor particular to his home country. And it held when he controlled for homicide rates, suggesting that mass shootings were better explained by a society’s access to guns than by its baseline level of violence.

At the most basic level, our country has simply chosen to make an obscene and monstrous trade-off.  In exchange for practically unlimited access to guns for our “freedom” and our “2nd amendment rights” we bear the costs of thousands and thousands of innocents– even shoolchildren– dying every year.  Go ahead and love you your “freedom” to own a dozen guns with high-capacity magazines.  Just recognize that the cost of your “freedom” is those dead kids in Florida (and so many others). [And, as always, I’ll re-up on Gary Wills on this point].

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

3 Responses to What we know about the Florida school shooting

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    Can you say “s-e-l-f-i-s-h” This is what happens when individuals with power try to protect their, in their opinion, unfettered right to bear arms. No right in the Constitution is entirely unlimited.
    These individuals are apparently willing to sacrifice any number of their fellow Americans, even fellow believers, to protect their right to acquire any and every gun they want whenever they want without any inconvenience to them.

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