02:08 - Source: CNN
These are some of the deadliest shootings at K-12 schools

Editor’s Note: Peter Bergen is CNN’s national security analyst, a vice president at New America and a professor of practice at Arizona State University. His forthcoming paperback is “The Cost of Chaos: The Trump Administration and the World.” View more opinion on CNN.

CNN  — 

It’s long past time that mass shootings in the United States should be treated as a national security issue; it is about our security as a nation of Americans.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 213 mass shootings already this year in the United States. And there have also been 27 shootings at schools causing injuries or deaths, according to Education Week.

Peter Bergen

This. Is. Not. Normal.

In any given year, Americans are many thousand times more likely to be killed by a fellow citizen armed with a gun than by a terrorist. There were, for instance, 19,384 gun homicides in the US in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meanwhile, four people were killed by terrorists in the country that same year, according to research done by New America.

Americans think of themselves as citizens of an exceptional nation; and yes, the US is exceptional. No other country is as heavily armed as the US. The closest country is Yemen – a place in the throes of a long civil war – and even then, gun ownership is less than half the US.

Contrary to the claims of the gun lobby, this has not made Americans safer. Adjusted for population size, you are roughly 90 times more likely to be killed by an assailant with a gun in the US than you are in England and Wales, which have a population under a fifth the size of the US and where there were 30 homicides by shooting in the year ending March 2020, according to the most recent data available from the Office of National Statistics (ONS). The same year in the US, according to CDC data, there were more than 14,800 homicides with a firearm.

So, let’s dispose of the National Rifle Association talking point that we will surely be hearing ad nauseam in the coming days; that it’s not about the weapon, it’s about the shooter.

Are Americans really drastically more mentally unstable than the British? Of course not. The issue is easy access to guns.

And I’m not talking about the guns that any of my in-laws in Louisiana use to hunt deer. They never use assault rifles.

Assault rifles have one purpose which is to maim and kill as many humans as possible efficiently and quickly. They have no place on American streets.

The Texas suspect purchased two AR-15-style assault rifles days before his assault, as reported by CNN. Also, according to Sgt. Erick Estrada with the Texas Department of Public Safety, the perpetrator in the Texas massacre at the school was wearing body armor. Why is this OK? Why should American citizens easily be able to purchase body armor, other than those who legitimately need it for their jobs, such as security guards?

There are some common sense actions that can be taken to reduce the number of mass shootings in the US. Law enforcement officials and teachers need to better understand the issue of “leakage,” which was identified a couple of decades ago as a possible predictor of school shootings. It’s where a student planning to do something violent often intentionally or unintentionally reveals something about their plans to peers or family members.

The Texas shooter texted photos of his semi-automatic weapons and a bag of ammunition to a classmate days before the shooting, according to CNN. He also posted pictures of his weapons on social media.

“Leakage” can also be found in acts of domestic terrorism as was the case of the suspect in the attack at the Buffalo supermarket in a Black neighborhood in which 10 people were killed earlier this month. The perpetrator made a “generalized threat” a year before he carried out his attack with an assault rifle that was investigated by police. Despite that threat, he was still able to legally purchase a semi-automatic rifle.

As the conservative writer David French has pointed out, more states should pass “red flag” laws and they should be better enforced. Such laws would prevent the purchase of guns by those like the Buffalo terrorist who had made the threat that had come to the attention of law enforcement.

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    Let’s see if anything substantive comes of the tragedy in Texas that reduces the toll of gun violence in the United States. We have all seen too many terrible tragedies unfold and then watched as nothing really changed.

    Let’s hope this time is different. America’s mass shootings are a national shame and tragedy and an outlier globally. And they will surely continue if Americans revert to business as usual, which has tragically been the case now for decades.