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America now has 300 million firearms, a barrage of NRA-backed gun laws—and record casualties from mass killers.
In the fierce debate that always follows the latest mass shooting, it's
an argument you hear frequently from gun rights promoters: If only more
people were armed, there would be a better chance of stopping these
terrible events. This has plausibility problems—what are the odds that,
say, a moviegoer with a pack of Twizzlers in one pocket and a Glock in
the other would be mentally prepared, properly positioned, and skilled
enough to take out a body-armored assailant in a smoke- and panic-filled
theater? But whether you believe that would happen is ultimately a
matter of theory and speculation. Instead, let's look at some facts
gathered in a two-month investigation by Mother Jones.
In the wake of the slaughters this summer at a Colorado movie theater
and a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, we set out to track mass shootings in
the United States over the last 30 years. We identified and analyzed 60 of them,
and one striking pattern in the data is this: In not a single case was
the killing stopped by a civilian using a gun. Moreover, we found that
the rate of mass shootings has increased in recent years—at a time when
America has been flooded with millions of additional firearms and a
barrage of new laws has made it easier than ever to carry them in
public. And in recent rampages in which armed civilians attempted to
intervene, they not only failed to stop the shooter but also were
gravely wounded or killed.