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Are we the world's mass-shooting capital because of income inequality?

To the editor: While I applaud your coverage of University of Alabama criminologist Adam Lankford's research on mass shootings, scrutiny of such events risks overshadowing larger societal problems. Mass shootings pale in comparison with ordinary homicides. ("Why the U.S. is No. 1 -- in mass shootings," Aug. 24)

More than 10,000 Americans die violently each year, but only a small fraction of these horrible crimes are mass shootings. Among industrialized societies, ours is remarkably violent. While gun ownership does affect the frequency of mass shootings, it has little impact on the much more important problem of overall homicide rates.

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What, then, makes our society so violent? Research indicates that a principal driver is income inequality. In addition to being among the most violent of industrialized nations, ours is among the most unequal, with wealth being concentrated in the hands of a few.

Despite widespread recognition that income inequality has grown dramatically worse in recent years, many voters consistently fail to support policies that would alleviate it. In opposing the redistribution of wealth, voters not only undermine their own financial interests, they also undermine the peaceful existence that should characterize an advanced democratic society such as our own.

Though less visceral than the horror of mass shootings, income inequality, no less tragic, is a far bigger problem in the long run.

Daniel M.T. Fessler, Los Angeles

The writer, a professor of anthropology, is director of the UCLA Center for Behavior, Evolution and Culture.

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To the editor: The United States leads all countries in mass murder not because we have more angry, delusional, psychotic or depressed people but because some of these people have access to guns — often many guns.

Profiles of many of these killers often show a very angry person with a desire for revenge (on people at large rather than specific victims).

It is obvious that the volume of guns is not going to be curbed in the next few decades, so we need to focus on identifying and helping those in need of treatment before they explode into violence.

Sol Taylor, Studio City

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