What Obama Conveniently Ignores in Arguing that Mass Shootings Only Happen in the US
In Paris today (of all places), Obama repeated his ridiculous line that mass shootings don’t happen in other places. That line has been fact checked previously and found seriously wanting for truth. However, looking at one of those fact checks made me realize something interesting.
In a study cited in this article, over a 15 year period, the US had roughly six times the number of mass shootings as other nations with 133 incidents compared to just 23 in other countries. However, the US had only 2.4 times as many fatalities and just over two times as many wounded.
The average number of dead in incidents in other nations averages out to about 8.7 versus 3.6 in the US. The average number of injuries overseas is 10, while in the US it is 3.8. (It’s worth noting that these numbers were before the latest Paris incident, so the 120+ dead in that incident are not included.)
In other words, while the US does, in fact, have far more incidents, the death and injury tolls are likely to be far lower here. There is actually a pretty logical reason for that. As gun control opponents often state, “When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.”
In the wake of the first Paris attacks – the January Charlie Hebdo attack – a lot of people noted that the first police on scene were seriously overpowered by the firepower of the assailants. They were unable to adequately protect the population. Paris has strict gun control laws. It is estimated there are roughly 7.5MM legal guns in the country and as many as 12.5MM illegal guns. The average police officer is therefore not equipped to deal with incidents such as the Hebdo attack or the attacks last month.
By comparison, the average police officer in the US is outfitted with a sidearm, and quite often a shotgun or heavier weapon in their cruiser. Police in the US are also usually outfitted with body armor. While these attacks are far more common here, because we have more gun ownership, our police are better equipped, and better able to respond to such attacks when they happen, thereby reducing the death toll when they do.
Any loss of life is tragic, but there is actually a pretty decent argument that America’s looser approach to gun control leads to better prepared police and lower loss of life despite the larger number of incidents. In an unarmed society, the citizens are much more likely to die because the police are less able to respond.
This pivots on the following sentence, “because we have more gun ownership, our police are better equipped,” which is hard for me to buy….it looks like the solution the article is trying to sell (and I am surprised to see you advocating it) is just to better militarize the police everywhere (regardless of the existing gun control laws).
I’m not advocating for more militarization, but I also can’t help looking at the data and drawing conclusions. I noticed there appears to be something keeping the death toll in the US to a much lower rate despite a significantly higher number of events.
I also noticed that Finland and Norway have strict gun control and lightly armed police as a result. The three incidents in those two countries alone left 85 people dead.
So I’m not arguing that more and better armed police is the solution so much as I am noticing that US gun control policy has apparently had the unintended consequence of actually reducing the per incident casualty rate. Other countries, with more restrictions on guns, still have these incidents, and when they do they cause considerably more damage.
By the logic of the article, there is a >causal< relationship between the laxity of gun regulation and the militarization of the police (and another between the militarization of the police and the reduction of fatalities in mass-shootings). If the article is correct that the (first) relationship is causal, then to oppose militarization, one should also support tighter gun regulation. If not,, one should be able to sustain militarization at its current level while tightening gun laws, reducing both the number of incidents and the number of fatalities per incident.