Flemming: Mass shootings in U.S. versus gun-controlled Europe

By David Flemming

After the horrific Uvalde school shootings, many Americans are asking themselves if they are at greater risk of being killed by homicidal maniacs with guns than the rest of the Western world.

If you go by the most commonly cited data in the media today, from Adam Lankford at the University of Alabama, the answer seems obvious — “yes!” But Lankford refuses to give anyone his data. Once this answer is convincingly given, an outcry for greater gun control is rarely far behind. Most European countries, including France, Finland and Norway, follow the European Firearms directive, where a hunting or sport license is needed to own a firearm, unlike in the U.S. where most states are more lenient.

First point — our large population tends to make us more sensitive to mass shootings. The U.S. is the third largest country by population in the world, behind only China and India. In fact, our 330 million population has the same number of people as the 140 smallest countries in the world. As Adam Smith noted in the Theory of Moral Sentiments, when countries have a strong national identity like we do, we often empathize more strongly with people who live thousands of miles away, so long as they are Americans. “If it could happen to a Texan child, it could happen to my Vermont child,” despite being thousands of miles away. This stands in contrast to a Spanish parent hearing about a mass shooting in France that happens a few dozen miles away. It is simply less emotionally jarring, because there is a state border where “they do things differently.”

France, Finland and Norway all have much smaller populations than the U.S.: 65 million for France and about 5 million each for Finland and Norway. As it happens, each had fewer mass shootings to batter the nation’s psyche, but on a per capita scale, the results were more sobering. According to researcher John Lott, all three had a much higher frequency of mass shootings per capita than the U.S. from 2009-15. France had 0.347 shootings/1,000,000 people, and Finland had 0.132/1,000,000 people and Norway had 1.888 shootings/1,000,000 people. That’s more than 21 times higher the U.S. rate of 0.078 shootings per 1,000,000 people! (Of course, Norway’s number is high because of a single terrorist attack).

As far as the chances of dying in a mass public shooting, the U.S. stacks up favorably vs. most European countries, as FEE has noted. Our rate of 0.089 deaths/1,000,000 people still falls in the bottom half.

From 2009-15, the U.S. placed in the bottom half of countries in terms of shootings per capita and death rate per capita.

If the U.S. happened to be situated in the middle of gun-controlled Europe, with a population one-tenth its size, (as populated as France or Germany) and a proportional drop in the overall number of mass shootings, I’d be willing to bet that European countries would remember the role that gun control had in the Nazi takeover of Germany, and be more willing to embrace a U.S. vision of responsible gun ownership.

Of course, this data is a little old. But for all of the outrage about mass shootings in the U.S., no one has bothered to use the University of Maryland data to see if the trends have still held since 2015. But just doing some cursory data gathering, the 87 people killed in Nice, France during the 2016 terrorist attacks led by Muslim extremists, suggests France would still be near the top per capita in mass shootings.

Some Americans might not care about constitutional gun rights — which is sad because those rights are one of the most important checks on government tyranny. But perhaps this data can serve to convince those on the fence that things are better than most Americans realize.

David Flemming is a policy analyst for the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

Image courtesy of Public domain

8 thoughts on “Flemming: Mass shootings in U.S. versus gun-controlled Europe

  1. Hugh Hewitt made an excellent point today on the radio.
    Chicago is the most gun controlled city there is in America and over 400 children have been murdered there since only the beginning of the year.

    It’s very clear that the Left only uses these tragedies to usher in more control over us and strip us of even more of our rights.
    If they cared so much about kids, they wouldn’t be fighting so vigorously to abort them.
    And why do only kids murdered in classrooms matter to them?
    What about the kids that die in car accidents, inner city violence, how about the kids that are committing suicide now?
    The border is wide open and our nation is being flooded with drugs, look at what this does to kids.
    But where is the outcry over how many kids are affected by the destructive policies of the Left today?
    How many kids are going hungry right now because their parents are trying to pay for gas and oil so they can have hot water?

    Politics as usual in America has gotten truly sickening.

  2. Schools that Allow Teachers to Carry Guns are Extremely Safe:
    Data on the Rate of Shootings and Accidents in Schools that allow Teachers to Carry


    ““There hasn’t been a single mass public shooting in any school that allows teachers and staff to carry guns legally. Since at least as far back as January 2000, not a single shooting-related death or injury has occurred during or anywhere near class hours on the property of a school that allows teachers to carry.”

  3. If you’re concerned about children’s safety while in school, then why in the world would anyone want to advertise a school property as “A gun free zone”?

    Would it be more sensible to train and arm the staff or at least have armed guards present or maybe both?

    AFAIK, there have been no issues at sites which are NOT “gun free zones”
    Look at Israeli schools for a good example. They have had zero instances of mass school shootings because the staff are all trained and armed, plus the students are taught to be proactive during an incident.

    Of course, there are those would complain that the site of an armed officer inside a school might “trigger” their children (oh, the irony).

    Then there is the elephant in the classroom, the prescriptive use of drugs to modify the behavior of known psychopathic students. You might note that little is said about this, especially after an incident, but the amount of prescribed drugs among teenage students has increased at the same rate as the shootings.

    A simple background check can preclude many of these situations. The real problem is not the guns, but the failure of the system to enforce the existing rules.

  4. Sever new restrictions with “gun control” won’t “control” anything…nothing. Because honest & decent people will cooperate with the laws. Bad guys, criminals, gangs….and those mentally unwell…will NEVER obey any new laws on gun ownership…because there are about 430 million guns already in the USA (and a couple millon more each year)…and about 19 million of those assault style ones. That is about 1.3 guns for every man, woman & child in USA….. Bad people will ALWAYS have guns – and will never give up/register their guns, or follow the law. Good people will.

    As for banning assault style guns? Ask a Liberal – they will be dumbfounded….that “banning” has been done – and it did not work then. So why now? Fact: Bill Clinton signed an assault rifle BAN….in 1994 and it stayed the nation’s law for ten years….till 2004. Did banning those guns for ten years fix the problem? Nope….The body of truth & facts that most Liberals “pretend not to know”… is their astounding ignorance….and is chiefly done to gain their political powers, by frightening-to-death the population that only they can save you (from conservatives).. just like they do with dire threats of climate change, BST, fertilizers, Acid rain, Ozone holes, over population, 35% of USA Corn for ethanol only which starves people later, eat only organic foods, rising sea levels (which aren’t really)….artic ice (which is almost at a ten year high level) etc….)…but never “the right thing” – to address a viable solution to any issue..

    • We saw what the Progressives did when the mid seventies Imminent Ice Age didn’t materialize – and they’re now denying anyone with any sense thought there could have been be any such idea. Where will the go if the AGW doesn’t pan out? What’s next on the Apocalypse agenda?

      • I think it’s Monkey Pox next up..
        The true issue though is really the bad case of Donkey Pox that is plaguing us.

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