Advocates for gun control are likely to seize on a new study showing the U.S. has experienced nearly a third of all public mass shootings worldwide over a nearly 50-year period, despite having only 5% of the world’s population.

Adam Lankford, a criminal justice professor at the University of Alabama, examined local police and federal law enforcement data from 1966 to 2012 and determined the U.S. had 31% of the world’s public mass shootings (those with four or more victims, according to the FBI’s definition). Over the course of 46 years, the U.S. experienced 90 such shootings.

A big takeaway from the study is that the U.S. could benefit from having fewer guns in circulation. Lankford found that the U.S. has “over 200 million more firearms in circulation than any other country,” he told Phys.org, so “it’s not surprising that our public mass shooters would be more likely to arm themselves with multiple weapons than foreign offenders.”

“My study provides empirical evidence, based on my quantitative assessment of 171 countries, that a nation’s civilian firearm ownership rate is the strongest predictor of its number of public mass shooters,” said Lankford. “Until now, everyone was simply speculating about the relationship between firearms and public mass shootings. My study provides empirical evidence of a positive association between the two.”

“The most obvious implication is that the United States could likely reduce its number of school shootings, workplace shootings, and public mass shootings in other places if it reduced the number of guns…

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