Each new mass shooting in the US reignites debate over the country’s treatment of gun rights as virtually sacrosanct. Americans own more guns than anybody else on Earth, even adjusted for population. (Yemenis are second.) Firearms were involved in the deaths of more than 45,000 people in the US in 2020, 54% of which were suicides. But Americans disagree along partisan political lines on whether that’s a major issue for the country.
While mass shootings account for just a fraction of US gun deaths, they attract the most attention. In May 2022, 19 children and two teachers were killed at an elementary school in rural Texas, a week after 10 were killed at a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y. In a report released the same month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation identified 61 “active shooter” attacks in 2021 that killed 103 people -- the most annual deaths since 2017, which was the year a sniper opened fire at a concert in Las Vegas, killing 58 people.