TAMPA, Fla — Mass shootings have become all too common in the U.S. and access to guns is something researchers at USF think is directly correlated.
In March of 2020 more than 2.5 million guns were sold, which equates to a more than 85% increase from the year prior, according to Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting, an industry research firm. In May of this year, that same group said fewer guns were purchased compared to 2021, but reported sales are far higher than they were pre-pandemic.
Another sobering statistic that seems to prove a painful problem in the U.S. — there have been more mass shootings than days so far in 2022. That’s according a non-profit called Gun Violence Archive.
May 24, 2022, marked day 144 in the year and so far there have been at least 212 mass shootings, which the FBI categorizes as four or more victims injured or killed.
What happened in Texas on Tuesday was the latest. According to officials, 19 children and two teachers were killed by the 18-year-old shooter at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.
“As we see in other countries that have less access to guns, people are under the same level of strain, they have the same issues, but when they’re going through it they just don’t have the easy access to guns that allow them to commit such a horrible crime, so easily and so quickly,” said Bryanna Fox, an Associate Professor of Criminology at USF.
Fox, also the co-director of the Center for Justice Research and Policy at USF, said that’s because there’s more time for intervention and mitigation efforts.
The Center for Justice Research and Policy brings together research from all different fields which include — in part — public health, sociology, and medicine, to find the cause and impact of crime. The center also works with partners like local law enforcement, social services and the justice system to come up with the best prevention strategies for crime.
Fox said some of the best research available suggests access to guns is a strong predictor of gun violence and that more guns don’t seem to be the answer based on the data available.
“If we expect more guns to reduce gun violence, the United States has some of the highest levels of gun access per capita and yet we also have some of the highest levels of gun violence per capita,” she said. “So, if more guns actually meant less gun violence, we would have one of the lowest gun violence rates on the planet and that’s unfortunately untrue.”
It’s been a decade since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook and Fox believes if policies were put in place following that tragedy, it may have helped prevent the shooter in Texas from accessing a gun.
She also said prevention efforts and being able to identify red flags is crucial.
“If any of that had occurred, all of these kids that were impacted, another generation of kids essentially traumatized by seeing their fellow students being shot while they’re going to school, that could have been stopped,” she said.