America’s Inexplicable Failure to Stop Gun Violence

We know what the problem is. We know what the solutions are. Americans overwhelmingly agree. Why does nothing change?

Flags of the United States in Washington DC, February 17, 2015
Flags of the United States in Washington DC, February 17, 2015 (Matt Popovich)

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

I’ve been writing about American politics for almost a decade now and even I 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 alone.

I’ve heard all the arguments. I’ve read the studies. I’ve seen the figures. This much is clear: 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 at 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 such 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.