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Thu Aug 27, 2015, 11:45 AM

American exceptionalism and the ‘exceptionally American’ problem of mass shootings

A remarkable indictment of the "American Dream."

Source: Washington Post
By Sarah Kaplan

The United States, according to Lankford’s analysis, is home to just 5 percent of the world’s people but 31 percent of its public mass shooters. Even more stunning, between 1966 and 2012, 62 percent of all school and workplace shooters were American. At 90 mass shooters in less than 50 years, the U.S. has five times as many as the next highest

One explanation is Americans’ high rate of firearm ownership. All five of the countries with the largest number of guns per capita (of which the U.S. is No. 1) ranked among the top 15 countries for public mass shootings, including two countries with reputations for safety, Switzerland and Finland. Many other studies have found a correlation between local gun ownership rates and deaths from shootings.

But that’s not enough to explain why mass shootings happen so much more often here than anywhere else. There are also cultural factors at work, Lankford argues. The things that Americans believe make us exceptional — our emphasis on individualism, our sense of destiny, our wealth-and-fame-based standards for success — also contribute.

The connection begins with something called “strain theory,” developed by sociologist Richard Merton in the 1930s. According to the theory, Lankford says, “deviance occurs because individuals who strive to meet culturally defined goals lack the means to do so.”


Much more at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/08/27/american-exceptionalism-and-the-exceptionally-american-problem-of-mass-shootings/

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