26 Dead After Texas Gunman Shoots up Church, Highlighting America’s Problems With Mass Shootings
A shooting on Sunday at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Tex. left 26 people dead, including several children, and at least 20 injured. The shooter was identified as 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, who reportedly had a history of violent behavior and mental health issues.
The victims of the shooting ranged in age from one and a half to 72, and included the 14-year-old daughter of the church’s pastor, TIME reported. The unborn child of a pregnant woman who was killed was also included in the death total.
Sunday’s massacre comes just five weeks after the deadliest mass shooting in American history, in which Stephen Paddock shot and killed 59 concert-goers in Las Vegas and nearly a year and a half after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando that killed 49.
The Texas shooter fled the scene after being gunned down by a civilian. He then shot himself in the head, according to the Washington Post. The gunman’s motivation behind the shooting is thought to have stemmed from “rage at his own relatives,” specifically his mother-in-law, who attended First Baptist but was not at the church on that day, the report said.
Kelley’s past was full of red flags, “including a court-martial from the Air Force for fracturing his baby stepson's skull, an animal cruelty arrest — and a habit of harassing ex-girlfriends,” NBC News reported. In addition to his stepson, he assaulted his first wife, charges that — if entered into a database by the Air Force — would have prevented him from purchasing a gun, according to multiple reports, including NBC and CNN.
It seems that mass shootings have become the norm in the United States. According to a recent ABC News report, four of the five largest gun-related massacres in the U.S. have taken place in the past year and a half. What causes the U.S. to have such frequency and magnitude of mass shootings?
The New York Times compiled statistics about gun control and mass shootings in the United States and other countries, and concluded that the “astronomical number of guns” in America is to blame. The Times cited a 2015 study that found that Americans own 42 percent of the world’s guns, while comprising only 4 percent of the world’s population.
The study, conducted by Adam Lankford, a professor at the University of Alabama, found that there were 90 mass shooters in the United States between 1966 and 2012. Philippines came in second place at 18. Yemen was the only country with a population above 10 million to have more mass shooters than the United States. But, still, the U.S. has the world’s highest rate of gun ownership; Yemen is second.
In addition to its sheer number of guns, it seems that the United States has a gun culture that perpetrates gun violence. The Times report stated that the American ideology that “people have an inherent right to own guns” is only shared by two other countries: Mexico and Guatemala. Elsewhere, gun ownership is seen as a privilege for law-abiding citizens.
Indeed, some countries that have experienced a mass shooting enacted stricter gun control as a result; Australia did just that after the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre. Given Americans’ stringent adherence to the Second Amendment, a response of tighter gun laws seem unlikely in the United States.