Why is the US so much more violent than Europe?

While there may or may not be a link between kids who watch violent TV shows or movies or play violent video games, it still can’t explain why these events happen so much more often in the US than the rest of the world. If I was to go to the local movie theater, I would see pretty much the same list of films here in France that US viewers will have available. Same goes for TV shows and the same applies to video games.

While Fox News-loving Joe Lieberman is talking about needing to require regulations on the industry to tone down violence and Tom “I’d like to scare the daylights out of you with false terror warnings” Ridge is blaming violent video games, neither can explain how or why this is primarily a US problem. Because it is.

Here’s a map of the world with violent mass shootings. Yes, there have been plenty of problems around the world but you can’t help but notice the concentration of events in the US.

Mass Shootings around the world

Mass Shootings around the world

Every country has problems, but in the case of the US, There’s a sick gun fetish. Even worse, there is a large part of the political class that protects this illness. I’ve lived overseas for a long time and have traveled quite extensively across six continents so I can see how the US differs from other countries.

Even in South Africa, which also has a serious problem with violence, the number of mass shootings doesn’t compare to the US. There’s no shortage of violence there, but you generally don’t see individuals shooting hundreds of rounds of ammo in a few minutes and killing dozens of people.

Semi Automatic Rifles via Shutterstock

Semi Automatic Rifles via Shutterstock

Here in France, yes there is violence, but it’s so incredibly unusual to hear of a shooting death. I can walk the streets of Paris at night and not wonder if I’m going to be held up at gunpoint or be shot just because. While I may be afraid of bad drivers, I’m not afraid of being shot.

When I lived in Baltimore, I had to stop watching the nightly death report, also known as the 11PM news. I was always on guard and wondered about crazy people with guns. I’ve never liked the idea of hunting for myself, but have never cared about people owning hunting rifles, who actually hunt.

What is disturbing to me is the easy availability of guns like the one used by the Sandy Hook killer. Why does anyone need something like that? Certainly not for hunting. And who buys Kevlar jackets outside of police, military and crime gangs?

So let the right wing political class talk about violence in games and TV, but that does little to address the real problem. America has a sick illness when it comes to guns and there’s no way around that truth. Instead of worrying about dividing America on social issues that aren’t really issues, the conservative right ought to be a lot more concerned about the excessive violence on the streets, rather than violence on TV. American TVs and video games may be violent, but it pales in comparison to the real world gun violence every day, across the country.

An American in Paris, France. BA in History & Political Science from Ohio State. Provided consulting services to US software startups, launching new business overseas that have both IPO’d and sold to well-known global software companies. Currently launching a new cloud-based startup. Full bio here.

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29 Responses to “Why is the US so much more violent than Europe?”

  1. Jeffrey Matthews says:

    The US sort of “fell in” to the gun problem and it’s a paradox because The US believes it has the perfect country. Accordingly, how can a perfect country make a mistake such as the 2nd amendment? It cannot. Hence there is no problem with any law and it must be “something else.” Some people talk about rounding up the mentally ill. That doesn’t usually work either. The nazis tried that. The NRA’s argument that everyone should have a gun is the most eloquent reason why no one should have a gun. If nobody has a gun then there can be no gun murders. Clearly a solution lies somewhere in the middle.

  2. Lisa Johnson says:

    Karma, even reptilian brains function at a very primal level.This is evolution at work for the better or the worse — if you have more mammalian DNA than reptilian it is rather overwhelming — I agree.

  3. monopole says:

    Even an attack on Fort Hood the most populous Army Base in the world didn’t result in such a story. For the simple reason that even soldiers are not continuously armed and ready to shoot.

    Simply put, unless such fictitious good Samaritans were to continuously brandish firearms with the safety off AT ALL TIMES and shoot first this scenario couldn’t happen.

  4. JD234 says:

    Regarding video games, among the top 100 best-selling video games of all time in each region, here is the percentage of them that are (by my count from http://www.vgchartz.com/ ) mainly about shooting:

    US: 26%
    EU: 19%
    Japan: 0%
    Rest of World: 24%

    So the US does seem to be more into such games than other places, though the “Rest of World” category (whatever that is) seems almost as bad as the US.

  5. karmanot says:

    Well said! Can you just imagine nuns with Uzi’s?

  6. karmanot says:

    They have minds? Who knew?

  7. karmanot says:

    Exactly! America—the new Syria.

  8. Naja pallida says:

    I suppose you’re right.

  9. milli2 says:

    If he was just in it for the money he would have fallen in line at Fox News and stayed on the air there. When you’re too screwed up for that network, something is wrong.

  10. Naja pallida says:

    Even their chosen few have been utterly and completely wrong. Just look at this last election. Their chosen few are falling for their own lies, and it cost them. It’s just too bad they don’t have any actual opposition to hold them to account.

  11. lynchie says:

    I guess it is easier to think of conspiracies and the like. Science and facts are too hard to wrap their minds around. There is one great missing element in many of these “prepper” types and that is a lack of curiosity to look at an issue and do a little research or ask questions or maybe be reluctant to accept the first explanation. If you have followed the loonies on these posts about the shooting over the past few days you see they are totally without facts they repeat blindly the NRA talking points. The right have done a fantastic job of keeping education for a chosen few. As long as you have people who never think for themselves you can keep them content with minimum wage, believe the big head in the sky and that men should control women and how they think and what they are allowed to do and that the “job creators” will look after them, someday. But it is getting harder and harder to keep them on the farm. All of our politicians love having a stupid, illiterate electorate that never question why the rich law breakers never seem to go to jail but the poor, elderly and less fortunate are always left holding the bag.,

  12. Naja pallida says:

    I highly doubt Glenn Beck believes any of it. He’s just a funny little right-wing troll who does it because it encourages very gullible people to send him money.

  13. Naja pallida says:

    You’d think such a thing would be all over the news, if it had happened. I know of individual cases of like retired cops stopping things like a liquor store robbery, etc, but no case where someone showed up someplace with the express intent of shooting it up, and the spree was stopped by an armed bystander.

  14. Naja pallida says:

    Not just easier access, but access that is also publicly funded. And one of the best things about universal health care is the availability of preventative care, before health problems (mental or otherwise) escalate. Of course, one has to seek help (or have someone forcibly seek it for them) for it to be effective. What are the chances that someone who thinks that shooting up a school is a viable choice is ever going to be in the right mental state to want to seek help? Plus, we have a very strong bias in this country that if you seek help for a mental health problem, you are somehow weak and to blame. The stigma against mental health problems has slowly been changing, especially with the more widespread use of psycho-pharmacology that are sometimes given out like candy, but it’s still considered shameful, and people so often try to deny their need for help as long as possible. So there’s a lot of factors, not just access to care.

  15. Kurt Weldon says:

    Nope. We came close during the Gabby Giffords incident, when a bystander with a pistol almost shot someone who was trying to help the vicitms. Does that count?

  16. Kurt Weldon says:

    Nicho, the government already turned against us, and the NRA did absolutely nothing. Remember how they stood up for the First Amendment when Occupy was being pepper-sprayed, nightsticked and arrested? Neither do I. Because they didn’t. Here were no less than three of the enumerated rights of the First Amendment – freedom of speech, freedom of peaceable assembly, and freedom to petition elected officials – being trampled, with nary a peep from the folks who claim all those guns are to protect our freedom. It was quite inspiring.

  17. Naja pallida says:

    Irrational fear is an excellent marketing tool for some things… but for some reason when you try to explain to these same people about climate change, suddenly facts and reality are not viable options to be afraid. :)

  18. Randy Riddle says:

    I think the mother may have had an undiagnosed mental illness. I’ve listened to some of the right-wing talk shows that cater to “preppers” – they’re on some smaller am and shortwave stations – and there’s a whole “down the rabbit hole” kind of paranoia and delusion there that’s even beyond Glenn Beck. And that’s saying something.

  19. A question brought up by the boyfriend this morning: has there _ever_ been a case of a mass shooting halted by the mythical good citizen with a concealed pistol, according to the usual right-wing fantasy?

  20. nicho says:

    Apparently the guy was majorly fucked up. A neighbor reported that the mother even told the guy never to turn his back on the son when he was around — “not even to go to the bathroom.” So, the mother then introduced the son to guns as a way to calm him down. WTF?

  21. Ann Stauner says:

    Seriously! So far we have heard that these children died because 1) we didn’t pray enough, (so God decided to take it out on a group of 6-7 year olds in Connecticut), 2) the teachers and liberal types have ‘blood on their hands’ because the teachers of 6-7 year olds were not allowed to have their own semi-automatic assault weaponry at the ready ( as if anyone in their right mind would drop off their kids at a school where the teachers were running around with loaded guns at the ready let alone that the element of surprise would not take away any of the protective potential that having such weapons at such a time could provide), now they have moved on to video games? We have now entered the ‘Look over there!’ territory of public debate. Blame anything but what is really to blame.

  22. Dano2 says:

    The person that did this was mentally ill. It’s hard to accept that, but it’s that simple

    And he had amazingly easy access to a plethora/panoply/pantheon of weapons and ammunition solely designed to kill his fellow man. And he lived in a society with a gun fetish.

    Its that simple.



  23. The person that did this was mentally ill. It’s hard to accept that, but it’s that simple. There really is no reason for what he did.

  24. I guess you haven’t been paying attention to Iraq and Afghanistan. I don’t have a worry about our government, it works, sometimes not the way I want it to but we always seem to manage. I feel that there need to be extreme penalties for allowing improper access to a gun and improper use of a gun. I also think that gun ownership needs to be much less common. The standards need to be high and if you don’t qualify to bad. I am a gun owner and I’m willing to submit to whatever standards are set. The 2nd amendment allows for gun ownership in order to be able to form a well regulated militia, not everyone is fit to belong in a military setting. Something has to change, the current system is insane.

  25. In America we closed all our mental health facilities (state hospitals) and the people that had been in institutions are now on the street or end up in prison. It’s another consequence of the “I don’t want to pay taxes” attitude. I’m willing to bet Europe has easy access to treatment for people in need of mental health care.

  26. lynchie says:

    Well they don’t get it, The military has more guns, more drones, more gunships more you name it, a few nuts with rifles and automatic weapons won’t hold them off. We didn’t need it with Ruby Ridge, or McVeigh’s militia or the stand off in Texas. It is all about selling guns, freeze dried food, gold and fear and making money on it. We have to be the most gullible nation as a whole. Lack of education and critical thinking make these crazies ripe for some type of religious/military leader to drive them on. This was evident by the rise of the tea baggers who appeared at meetings with automatic weapons ready to defend god’s knows what.

  27. Randy Riddle says:

    The Telegraph is reporting that the shooter’s mother was a “prepper”, part of a movement that stocks up on guns, food and other supplies, preparing for economic and social collapse. Adversiters selling gold, freeze-dried food and other survivalists supplies to “preppers” are a constant presence on right-wing conservative talk radio. I have to wonder if the shooter was trying to “save” these small children from living through the apocalypse that his mother so deeply believed in.

  28. nicho says:

    And the fact is that were a government to turn against us, all the gun lovers with all their guns aren’t going to save us — for a whole bunch of reasons. First, the gun lovers will probably side with the government. They did when Bush and Cheney shredded the constitution. Second, the government can outgun you, no matter how many guns you have. Iraq gad universal gun ownership. It didn’t save the Iraqis from Saddam and it didn’t save them from Bush. The only thing that works against the US military is IEDs and for some reason those aren’t covered by the 2nd amendment. I wonder why. Third, all the government has to do is shut down phone communication and the internet, which it can do in an instant — and then shut off the fuel supply. Then all the gun owners can sit isolated in their suburban and rural homes and wank over their gun collection. They’ll have no way for any organized action. All this notion of repelling a rogue government is just a Rambo-esque fantasy fostered by the goons at the NRA.

  29. lynchie says:

    Sen. Gohmert yesterday on FOX vocalized the problem, and buys into it. The NRA is in a constant twist about the government coming after all the guns and we need to be armed with automatic weapons, vests, you name it to prevent that from happening. We hear daily/weekly about the U.N. coming to take over the U.S., the reality shows such as Doomsday Preppers constantly talks about having a huge cache of guns and ammo to defend ourselves. In all of it one constant theme have guns and ammo and be prepared to shoot everyone on sight. I have never woken up one day, ever, when I thought for a second that the end was near or that the U.N. were going to suddenly mobilize and take me a prisoner, but I have neighbors here in Western P.A. who do.

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