Photo: Eric Gay/AP Photo

Want to understand our epidemic of gun violence? These stories are a good place to start

Another week, another mass shooting in the United States, where the unthinkable has become routine. Swap the names, places and statistics, and tragic news starts to feel like massacre MadLibs. Just fill in the blanks! Man walks into a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and opens fire, killing 26 people, including a pregnant woman, a 17-month-old and eight members of the same family.

Our responses have also grown infuriatingly familiar: thoughts, prayers, hand-wringing over the state of mental health care, threats to crack down on immigration (if the shooter is brown), admonishments to “be prepared” to be gunned down while enjoying Leviticus or country music, and assurances from politicians that, whatever the facts of the crime, this isn’t a “guns situation.”

It is, of course. And the best thing we can do to prevent more mass shootings, more senseless death, more towns shrouded in the fog of mourning, is to understand the guns situation in America. These news articles, op-eds and websites are a good place to start.

What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparisons Suggest an Answer (New York Times)

This data-driven story offers a big answer to the biggest question: 270 million, the number of guns in America. On a chart depicting the number of guns and mass shootings in various countries, the United States is such an outlier that the rest of the world is jammed together in the bottom left corner just to keep the land of the free from spilling off the grid altogether. The authors examined mental health care, crime rate, diversity, even the popularity of video games, and came to a decisive conclusion: “The only variable that can explain the high rate of mass shootings in America is its astronomical number of guns.”

Two Dark American Truths From Las Vegas (The Atlantic)

Published as the death toll from the Las Vegas shooting was still ticking upward, this devastating piece from The Atlantic’s James Fallows dismisses the gentle touch and mandatory uplift with which we often discuss mass shootings in favor of stark, ugly truth: “America will not stop these shootings. They will go on.”

Australia responded to the Port Arthur tragedy with a massive gun buyback. This 2013 buyback in Trenton, New Jersey netted more than 2,600 weapons, including 700 that were illegal. Mel Evans/AP Photo

To Stop Violence, Start at Home (New York Times)

What do perpetrators of mass shootings have in common? The people responsible for our most reprehensible acts of violence are overwhelmingly men, more than half of them target a family member or significant other, and 16 percent have been previously charged with domestic violence. As Pamela Shifman and Salamishah Tillet write, “Men who commit violence rehearse and perfect it against their families first. Women and children are target practice, and the home is the training ground for these men’s later actions.”

In Life and in Death, White Privilege Protected Texas Shooter Devin Kelley (The Intercept)

One of white privilege’s most pernicious manifestations is the treatment of those accused and convicted of crimes. As Shaun King writes, Sutherland Springs shooter Devin Kelley left behind a breadcrumb trail of warning signs, but despite violence, threats and boasts about the AR-15 with which he would commit his attack on social media, his whiteness protected him, again and again.

In 1996, Australia Enacted Strict Gun Laws. It Hasn’t Had a Mass Shooting Since (Slate

Originally published after Sandy Hook, this article examines how Australia responded to the worst mass murder in the country’s history, when a gunman opened fire in Port Arthur, Tasmania, killing 35 and wounding 23 more. “Twelve days later, Australia’s government did something remarkable. … [I]t announced a bipartisan deal with state and local governments to enact sweeping gun-control measures. A decade and a half hence, the results of these policy changes are clear: They worked really, really well.”

“Men who commit violence rehearse and perfect it against their families first.”

Inside the Race to Stop the Next Mass Shooter (Mother Jones) 

Before Devin Kelley gunned down worshippers inside First Baptist Church on November 5, he displayed an array of warning signs, from death threats against Air Force superiors to a domestic violence conviction and threatening text messages to his mother-in-law. These are exactly the kind of behaviors that might draw the attention of a threat assessment team, a collection of community leaders, law enforcement officers and psychologists who are working to prevent the next mass shooting by intervening before it’s too late.

The Math of Mass Shootings (Washington Post)

The Washington Post’s digital database covers 50 years of mass shootings in America, starting with the 1966 University of Texas attack and ending with this month’s deadly incident in Sutherland Springs. In total, 974 people have been killed in mass shootings, their lives represented by silhouettes in a graphic that just keeps going as you scroll.

Gun Violence Archive

Non-profit, non-advocacy and independent, the Gun Violence Archive collects data from law enforcement, media, government and commercial sources to maintain a realtime record of gun violence in the United States. Statistics include total incidents to date this year (52,913), teens killed or injured (2,795), mass shooting incidents (308) and unintentional shootings (1,717).