OPINION

Too many guns = Too much gun violence. Why can't we draw a line between these two points?

We don’t have more mental health problems than other countries. We don’t have more violent video games. We don’t have more music with violent lyrics. We just have more guns, and more gun violence.

Rex Huppke
USA TODAY

I hate to break it to you, America, but we have too many guns.

In the wake of the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 children and two adults and shook right-thinking people to their core, there have been at least 20 additional shootings in which four or more people were shot or killed, not including the shooter.

That metric is how the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit research group, defines a mass shooting. 

The group reported that in those 20 mass shootings since the massacre at Robb Elementary School, at least 18 people have been killed and 67 injured in other mass shootings. They happened across the country in places like Philadelphia, Chicago, Phoenix and Houston and in cities in Florida, Alabama, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Colorado and Nevada.

It’s near-impossible to grieve one American mass shooting before another happens.

We have too many guns.

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According to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Nearly eight-in-ten (79%) U.S. murders in 2020 – 19,384 out of 24,576 – involved a firearm. That marked the highest percentage since at least 1968, the earliest year for which the CDC has online records. A little over half (53%) of all suicides in 2020 – 24,292 out of 45,979 – involved a gun, a percentage that has generally remained stable in recent years.”

A gun control advocate holds a sign across from the National Rifle Association annual meeting Friday in Houston.

The same analysis found that the 45,222 gun deaths in 2020 “were by far the most on record, representing a 14% increase from the year before, a 25% increase from five years earlier and a 43% increase from a decade prior.” 

We have too many guns.

According to the 2021 National Firearms Survey: “The average gun owner owns 5 firearms, and handguns are the most common type of firearm owned. 48.0% of gun owners have owned magazines that hold over 10 rounds, and 30.2% of gun owners – totaling about 24.6 million individuals – have owned an AR-15 or similarly styled rifle.”

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An AR-15 was used in the Robb Elementary School shooting, and in a long list of other high-profile mass shootings.

America has too many guns.

The Small Arms Survey found that in 2017, there were more than 393 million firearms in civilian possession in the United States, a number that has undoubtedly grown in the five years since. There are more guns than people in America.

We have far too many guns.

Gun-control advocates hold a vigil outside of the National Rifle Association (NRA) headquarters following the recent mass shooting at Robb Elementary School on May 25, 2022 in Fairfax, Va.

That same Small Arms Survey study noted that in 2017, U.S. citizens owned 46% of the world’s stock of civilian firearms while having only 4% of the world’s population.

We have – and no, I won’t stop saying it – far too many guns.

The data is clear. The carnage is clearer.

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We don’t have more mental health problems than other countries. We don’t have more violent video games than other countries. We don’t have more music with violent lyrics than other countries. We don’t have more immorality than other countries.

We just have more guns, and more gun violence.

Community members gather at the school to pay their respects for the victims of the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, on May 30, 2022.

The usual response at this point – and it’s not an unreasonable one – is, “So what are you going to do? Take everyone’s guns away?”

If it were up to me, the answer would be, “Yes, that’s exactly what I’m going to do, and I plan on using a large aerial magnet to do it, sorry about any toasters that get lost in the extraction process.”

But it’s not up to me, and quite frankly, I don’t know the exact answer. 

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What I do know, and what I think all of us, deep down, know, is that we have too many guns. And those guns – regardless of good, well-intentioned, law-abiding gun owners, of whom there are many – are being used to terrorize our schools and houses of worship and shopping malls and movie theaters and parks and pretty much any place imaginable. They are being used to kill our humans, small, tall, short, young and old, and they are not being stopped by the mythological “good guy with a gun.”

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“We are capping the number of handguns in this country,” he said.

Voila! The Canadians just up and did it. And that’s on top of expanded background checks and plans to ban more than 1,000 military-style firearms.

They don’t have a right to bear arms in Canada, and that’s a big difference between us and them. But do you know what else they don’t have? They don’t have a god-awful massacre at an elementary school and then, within little more than a week, have 20 additional mass shootings.

Countries like England, Australia and New Zealand clamped down on guns, and guess what? Tyranny didn’t follow, but gun violence dropped.

Activists join Senate Democrats outside the Capitol to demand action on gun control legislation after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at a Texas elementary school this week, in Washington, Thursday, May 26, 2022.

America isn’t Canada. Or England or Australia or anywhere else. I get that. But we have a culture that fetishizes guns, and we have elementary schools getting shot up, and there is absolutely a connection between those two things.

We, by any measure, have too many guns. You can gripe and moan that making it harder for people to get certain guns won’t make a difference, but it’s like having two points on a page and saying, “Welp, no way we can draw a line between those! It’s too darn complicated.”

It isn’t. And when lives and people’s right to live without fear are at stake, you better be sure you can live with the decision to not draw that line.

Follow USA TODAY columnist Rex Huppke on Twitter @RexHuppke and Facebook: facebook.com/RexIsAJerk