Mass shootings have been on the rise in U.S. since the turn of the century, but a look at other countries shows President Barack Obama may be looking in the wrong direction in his search for a solution.
Obama has repeatedly called for stricter gun laws as the only solution to prevent mass shootings. Research, however, reveals massacres are more common in some developed countries and that alternative methods such as knives can be just as effective.
An FBI report looking at the number of shootings between 2000-2013 reveals that mass shootings have been significantly more common during Obama’s tenure compared to former President George W. Bush. The Mass Shooter Index reports a frequency of mass shootings (defined as four or more shot) that is currently exceeding one per day.
Each time a shooting takes place, Obama is quick to point to a one-sided cause: the number of guns.
“I’m going to talk about this on a regular basis. And I will politicize this,” Obama said after the Oct. 1 shooting at Umpqua Community College that took nine lives. The shooter was killed by police.
During his remarks he shared examples of how European countries have been successful in reducing the number of mass shootings and how the problem is unique to the U.S.
“We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months,” he said.
This is not necessarily the case. Norway, Finland, Slovakia and Switzerland all rack up higher numbers of mass shootings per capita despite having fewer guns and stricter regulations. In the cases of Finland and Slovakia, the fatalities are twice as high as in the U.S. Norway’s number is more than 20 times higher, due in part to the massacre carried out by Anders Behring Breivik in 2011 which took 77 lives.
Even in countries where guns are extremely rare, people find alternative ways to successfully execute massacres. China has 4.9 guns per 100 residents, compared to 88 in the U.S., according to The Washington Post. Without guns, the Chinese instead turn to knives. China has seen a spree in mass stabbings, especially at schools, and in some cases the casualties outnumber U.S. mass shootings. In April 2010 alone, there were five reported stabbing massacres in China.
The same goes for Japan, a country with 0.6 guns per 100 people, where one man killed eight children at an elementary school in 2001, and another man went on a spree to kill seven and injure an additional 11 in 2008.
One notable difference is the way countries label these massacres. What would be considered an active shooter in the U.S. is commonly referred to as a “terrorist” in other countries, regardless of nationality or motive. Norway has been successful in decreasing mass violence after putting forth more resources toward terrorism prevention. In China, the debate centers around the lacking mental health infrastructure as the primary reason behind the violence.
Several members of Congress called for the debate to be switched toward mental health rather than the Second Amendment after Thursday’s shooting in Oregon.
“[The Second Amendment] is a personal right as outlined in the Constitution, and therefore we must address the underlying issues of mental health services and treatment in this country,” said Republican Rep. Chris Stewart.