Once again, a mass shooting has erupted in the United States, this time in Las Vegas, Nevada. A gunman with an arsenal of 23 weapons killed more than 50 people and wounded more than 500 before killing himself, according to The New York Times. The Islamic State, a militant group, has claimed a connection to the gunman, but authorities have found no evidence for that claim.*
The Las Vegas massacre is a symptom of a problem more serious than terrorism: the lack of effective gun controls in the U.S. As I have reported previously, between 1970 and 2007, a total of 3,292 people in the U.S. were killed by terrorists. Almost all those deaths occurred on a single day, 9/11/01. That averages out to fewer than 100 deaths from terrorism a year.
In contrast, more than 32,000 Americans are shot to death every year, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Of those, more than 11,000 people are murdered and almost 20,000 kill themselves. The U.S., which has more firearms per capita than any other nation, has rates of gun-related killings much higher than any other developed nation.
The American fetish for guns hurts non-Americans, too. The U.S. is the world’s leading source for small arms—defined as weapons that can be carried and operated by a single person—as it is for larger, more expensive weapons, such as tanks and jet fighters.
The Center for American Progress, a nonpartisan think tank, estimated in a 2010 report that 875 million small arms are in circulation around the world. The report calls the proliferation of small arms “an immediate security challenge to individuals, societies, and states around the world and an enormous hurdle to sustainable security and development. Small arms fuel civil wars, organized criminal violence, and terrorist activities. They also undermine multimillion dollar development programs and other assistance to fragile states.”
Various groups, such as the International Action Network on Small Arms, seek tighter national and international controls on the manufacture and trade of small arms. But the National Rifle Association has impeded international as well as domestic gun controls. President Donald Trump is more likely to ease controls than tighten them. He told the NRA in April, “You have a true friend and champion in the White House.”
If the U.S. devoted as much effort to gun control as it does to countering terrorism, the world would be a much safer place.
[*This column is adapted from ones I have posted after previous mass shootings.]