America’s Inexplicable Failure to Stop Gun Violence

We know the problem. We know the solutions. Why will nothing change?

United States Capitol Washington
United States Capitol in Washington DC at night, September 18, 2014 (Thomas Hawk)

Nothing confounds foreigners more about America than its relationship with guns.

I’ve been writing about American politics for a decade and I still don’t get it.

In that time, the problem has only got worse. The five worst shootings in American history occurred since 2007. 1,806 Americans have been killed with guns this year — and it’s only February!

I’ve heard the arguments. I’ve read the studies. I’ve seen the figures. Whatever else, there is one inescapable conclusion: the widespread availability of guns makes the United States more vulnerable to gun violence.

This shouldn’t be a controversial thing to say. But even on a day like this, after seventeen students and teachers were shot and killed in a high school in South Florida, it is.


The solutions are well-known: background checks, licenses, waiting periods, banning the bulk purchase of ammunition, banning military-style weapons, expanding access to psychiatric care. These are things that have worked in the past, and that have worked in other countries.

Polls find majority support for each of these measures. Few Americans accept that living in fear of school shootings is the price they need to pay for freedom. No other civilized country in the world prioritizes gun rights over children’s safety.

Yet in America, nothing changes.