The recent mass killings in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas, are not surprising. They are a shock and a horror, but they are just the latest to fill our headlines. It’s a part of the everyday experience in the United States, where gun violence kills 111 human beings every day, nearly 40,000 of us a year. Where more than half our states allow citizens to carry guns openly, a hostile signal that they are on the alert and prepared to return violence with violence. Where more than 30 percent of Americans say they own a gun.

An objective view of our country would indicate that we are sick.

Psychologically, our mental health professionals are overwhelmed. Our suicide rate is sky high, as is our record level of opioid deaths. The surgeon general tells us that there is a mental health crisis among our adolescents.

We are seriously ill from an emotional standpoint, even before highlighting the country’s deep hostile partisan divide, including the extremist attacks on state and federal government buildings and the personal threats against elected officials.

To cap off this extensive array of national malaise, we own an obscene number of weapons whose primary purpose is to kill other humans. We buy these guns at a prodigious rate.

Social scientists tell us that healthy countries have a high degree of trust and a tendency to look out for the welfare of their fellow citizens. When we compare the United States with Western developed countrieswe, unfortunately, are at the top of the list of distrust. We are wary of our fellow citizens outside our immediate circle. As a society, we are sick, and, as individuals, many of us feel sick.

Without weapons, we would be dealing with a significant national crisis. With guns, we add oil to a raging fire.

History tells us that greeting others with a handshake was developed to show that no weapons are carried. True or not, a domestically armed country with deep internal divisions cannot be psychologically healthy or physically safe. Even if we could solve the myriad of challenges facing our country, our distrust would not disappear if handguns and military weapons are so prevalent.

Trust occurs when those of different orientations, opinions and convictions can sit across a table and discuss differences. Guns are not a part of that picture. Guns are like a patient with an extremely high fever. The fever must be addressed before anything else, or the patient will die.

Politicians who promote gun-ownership benefits do not believe that our gun-owning society is safe. State and federal offices where these politicians work all require electronic surveillance at the entrances and severe penalties for those carrying a weapon into their institutions. For political gain, these politicians put partisan advantage before the country’s welfare and contribute to the deaths of thousands of our citizens.

These same politicians commonly blame people who are mentally ill. Yet countless research shows that people with mental illness account for a tiny fraction of violence. Psychosis, by definition, means being unable to function in the everyday world because of brain disturbance.

Instead of addressing the corrosive effects of handguns and military weapons, gun-supporting politicians again avoid authentic leadership. While laws limiting gun ownership to those with a mental disorder may reduce a tiny amount of violent behavior, their legislation distracts from the reality that too many guns are meant to kill humans in the United States.

The distribution of guns varies widely by state. For example, in 2020, Mississippi ranked highest in gun ownership with 27.52 per 100,000, while Hawaii had the lowest with 3.55 per 100,000.

Strict gun laws work — those states with the highest ownership rank the highest in handgun violence. More handguns equals more violent crimes. More guns make more Buffalo and Texas tragedies likely.

Since 2014, gun ownership has significantly risen to record highs, as have the number of tragedies that inevitably accompany them. Meanwhile, lawmakers — in the relative safety of their workplace and protected by electronic security —  hypocritically pass laws promoting widespread ownership of guns meant to kill humans.

Our country cannot become healthy unless those addicted to power decide to attend to the safety of their constituents.