When it comes to gun violence, the rest of the world looks at the United States and asks itself, "WTF?"
Despite that Americans make up less than 5% of the world's population, we account for nearly a third of all mass shootings and own 42% of all guns worldwide. According to the Gun Violence Archive, 15,586 people died as the result of gun violence (including suicides) in 2017, giving us a per capita rate of gun deaths eight times higher than Canada, 32 times higher than Germany, and 55 times higher than the United Kingdom.
Our unwillingness to address this problem has made us a laughingstock to the rest of the world. While people will point to things like mental health or video games as possible causes of gun violence, it's clear that those aren't the issue because every other country has the same video games and comparable rates of mental illness.
The problem is, and always has been, our national obsession with guns. A Dutch late night TV program gave us the comedic reckoning we needed.
In October 2017, Dutch TV show "Sunday with Lubach" aired a fake public service announcement to help bring attention to the "devastating humanitarian crisis is threatening a small country on the coast of North America: the United States of America." The name of that crisis? Nonsensical Rifle Addiction, or NRA for short.
GIFs from Sunday With Lubach/YouTube.
"Scientists still can't explain why, but while it's spreading like wildfire throughout the U.S., NRA seems unable to cross the ocean or the Canadian border," says a somber voiceover announcer.
The video jokingly boasts of plans to help those afflicted with NRA, like Nonsensical Rifle Addiction Anonymous (NRAA) or humanitarian missions to drop "water, blankets, facts, insights, statistics, and truth bombs" on America.
The rest of the world sees the issue, so why can't we? Actually, many of us do. It's the politicians who don't.
In fairness, many Americans do see the issue, but feel powerless to make a change. The Onion, a popular satirical website, has spent years taking jabs at politicians and their insistence that there's nothing worth trying, running the headline "'No Way To Prevent This,' Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens" whenever there's a mass shooting.
The truth is that the majority of Americans do think we need to change our laws. According to The New York Times, 89% of Americans are in favor of universal background checks for gun buyers, 85% support banning people who've been convicted of a violent crime from owning guns, 79% believe gun owners should have to obtain a license, 78% favor a three-day waiting period before purchasing a gun, and 67% approve of a ban on so-called assault weapons.
If you believe that change is needed, you're not alone. That's why it's that much more important that you contact your elected officials and demand they take action on this issue. It's time we stopped being a punchline for the rest of the world.