Easy accessibility to guns contributes to mass shootings, experts say

CHICAGO -- Many people are asking why mass shootings happen more frequently in the United States and some experts are weighing in.

Researchers WGN spoke to said owning a gun provides some people with a sense of identity. They also said no other country has so many guns available and so easily available as the U.S.  And that, they said, is as the heart of the problem.

“America does have a fascination with guns that is unlike what we see in any country in the industrialized world,” Alexandra Filindra, University of Illinois at Chicago associate professor, said.

Filindra said it’s estimated there are between 300 and 350 million guns in civilian hands in the United States.

Even though gun ownership in America has declined from 49 percent of households in the early 70s to 36 percent in 2016, that also means on average a gun-owning household has 8 to 10 firearms.

Filindra’s research has led her to believe that it’s not about security.

“This is not about security. People love firearms for other reasons, they make them feel good, they make them feel important and strong and virtuous and it signifies something good about themselves,” she said.

Sara Gorman, a public health and behavioral science expert based in New York said the abundance of guns has created an urgent public health issue.

She said while mass shootings like Las Vegas are not as common as people think, the bigger issue is suicides, accidents and domestic disputes that take more lives.

“The idea that you would be safer in your own home with gun is a fallacy, you’re actually much more likely to die by that gun in your own home than you are to use it protect yourself against anyone else,” Gorman said.

The National Rifle Association has not commented on Monday’s shooting, but on Tuesday, the Illinois Rifle Association released a statement that read in part:

"Like all people of good conscience, lawful Illinois firearm owners abhor criminal acts of violence committed against innocent citizens.  At the same time, we firmly hold the freedoms enshrined in the U.S. constitution in the highest regard. Thus, we reject the false notion that security may only come with the diminishment of liberty.”

Filindra believes gun ownership rights for some have become more important than any other right, including the right to free speech and the right to vote.

“In this world, any kind of restriction regardless of who reasonable it sounds is a signal that the government is trying to take away your fundamental rights, so no kind of restriction is ideologically possible in this kind of narrative,” she said.

A study by the University of Alabama found there is a correlation between the number of mass shooting in a county and the high rates of gun ownership. A mass shooting being four or more people involved.

So far in 2017 there have been 273 mass shootings, in the last 24 hours there have been at least 30 shootings according to the gun violence archive.