The US media has widely cited a study by Adam Lankford, professor at the University of Alabama, that solely blames Americans’ extraordinary share of international mass shootings between 1966 and 2012 (31%) on its international lead in gun ownership (42%).
Surveying a total of 171 countries, Lankford argues that the correlation between gun ownership and mass shootings, even when America is excluded from the equation, shows that guns are the only responsible factor.
But Lankford fails to explain why, for example, Canada’s comparable degree of rifle ownership does not have a corresponding degree of mass shootings. Nor when there is correlation (e.g. Yemen and Afghanistan, conflict zones in any case) is violence directed at schools and churches except out of religious extremism, as opposed to individual derangement.
By definition, gun massacres depend on guns. But without the guns, the killers would simply resort to other means. Guns are more deadly than knives, but not bombs.
A Society in Breakdown
The increasing regularity of these shootings is a measure of America’s societal breakdown. This breakdown being courtesy of the inequality and alienation engendered by the societal domination of the corporate-financial elite, it follows that the two-party political system that serves and defends said elite would not want to highlight this reality. Hence, the ‘political debate’ becomes conveniently polarised between pro-gun and anti-gun, deliberately evading broader questions.
More than 2.3 million Americans have died since 2000, most of them by suicide, drug overdoses, and lack of healthcare. 85,000 of these deaths have occurred in the workplace, including multiple just last December. America’s militarised police forces have killed 12,000 since 2000 and, according to FBI statistics, are killing an average 1000 per year. Naturally, the US establishment is not calling for their disarmament, let alone the greatest violent force: the military.
Since becoming the dominant superpower after WWII (a preview of my film about the growing threat of a US-Russia Third World War, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSkUOXArBTQ), America has been in an almost constant state of war. This means that, despite censorship of the worst horrors, audiences of American media have been constantly subjected to images and sounds of war and the promotion and glorification of the most violent military on earth.
Significantly, the victims of these wars have been made invisible to popular memory: 2 million in Korea, 3 million in Vietnam, 1 million in Iraq… So voluminous is the death toll that, were it to be appended to the list recited at Ground Zero, listeners would no doubt fall asleep.
All of this serves to desensitize Americans to killing and to normalize it, as if slaughtering foreigners is as incidental and morally troublesome as undercooking an egg. But since Americans and foreigners alike are humans, such devaluation of human life inevitably self-generalizes.
On top of this psychopathic normalization of terrorism ‘so long as we do it’, American society is filled with bitterness and hateful division. With the help of the Democrats’ promotion of racial politics so as to distract from the class struggle (see my previous post), the Right are particularly bitter and hateful with their dehumanization of immigrants, Mexicans, Muslims and liberals. Both the political polarization and these extreme quasi-fascist sentiments have received maximal amplification with the ascendancy of Donald Trump to the White House.
What we have then is a society dominated by militarism, racism, police violence and political division. Whatever sense of solidarity emerged during the great postwar boom has given way to a country bitterly divided and atomized, of whom countless are deeply alienated and lonely, brainwashed, and psychologically disturbed. Until the 1% are unseated from their class domination of America and the world, this environment will continue to breed more and more tragedies of the Parkland variety.
1. A collective reckoning of statistics cited at http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2018/02/23/pers-f23.html