America is No. 1 — in gun ownership and gun violence. Ours certainly is a gun culture; I am a fringe member. But as we approach a tipping point in our perception of gun violence, as surviving students take to the streets, as corporations distance themselves from the NRA, we might be witnessing a cultural change.

The political establishment itself serves as a very high speed bump on the road to freeing ourselves from gun-worship. The gun lobby has owned American politics for years.

During the 2016 election cycle, the NRA gave $54 million to its favored candidates, including $31 million to advance Donald Trump’s candidacy. Most went to GOP candidates, but Dems profited too. Lame-duck Speaker Paul Ryan reigns as the top Congressional recipient of gun lobby largesse.

Campaign fund-raising has become a major issue in politics, precisely because money wins elections. For that reason, many politicians believe they simply can’t afford to buck the NRA. It’s not just loss of donations that concerns them; active opposition by the NRA could devastate a campaign. As a Republican member of the Kansas House recently confided to me, “in Kansas, the NRA has the GOP by the short hairs.”

Not just in Kansas.

In survey after survey, Americans favor more gun control measures. Which measures might actually work? Which proposals are just Band-Aids, assurances that we’re “doing something” about gun violence, but in reality only diverting the conversation away from serious and effective interventions?

We see stickers announcing a particular scene is a gun-free zone, like a no-smoking zone. Contrary to popular myth, such zones don’t beckon cowardly shooters wishing to shoot-and-scram with impunity. Most mass-shooters already expect to be killed; many shoot themselves.

Shall we ban “bump-stocks,” which effectively convert semi-automatic rifles into full automatics? (“Semi-auto” means one has to pull the trigger each time a single round is fired; depress the trigger of an “automatic,” and it will fire continuously until the trigger is released.) Bump-stocks are impressive, but they’re not used often in “mass shootings,” defined as four or more victims shot in the same area around the same time.

The Vegas shooter had an arsenal in his hotel room. His goal was to spray hundreds of bullets randomly, as fast as possible, into a distant crowd. When he moved from the bump-stocks to his other weapons, the carnage continued.

Most mass shootings are up close and personal, often one target, one shot. With a semi-auto, one can pull the trigger over and over so fast it amounts to a steady stream, around two shots per second. With large-capacity clips, stopping to reload is less urgent. A shooter packing multiple weapons can just drop an empty one and pull out another.

Semi-autos are plentiful, starting with .22 caliber guns and pistols. A reasonably adept shooter can shoot very fast without a bump-stock. At close range, every shot hits its target. Most shootings wouldn’t be affected by an absence of bump-stocks. Even small clips can do major damage.

Will NRA gun safety courses help? Possibly they could help reduce accidental discharges, like those that commonly kill kids at home, or adults crossing barb-wire fences. But mass-shooters are not interested in safety — quite the contrary. Accidental discharges happen even to experienced gun-owners, especially when they’re drunk or showing off. Safety courses feel good, but accomplish little to prevent mass shootings.

Most shootings occur in places other than schools, so turning schools into armed fortresses isn’t an effective solution either. Shooters commonly aspire to go out in a blaze of glorious gunfire, ending only when they too are shot, by themselves or others. The threat ostensibly posed by gun-toting teachers is not a deterrent to someone bent on mass mayhem. At best, when the shooter opens fire, armed onsite personnel might intervene more rapidly than off-site authorities — even as potential victims still are being moved to refuge in locked-down areas.

It’s naive to expect a loose cadre of armed amateurs — teachers, custodians, coaches, even after “proper training” — to coordinate their fire so the shooter, and only the shooter, gets hit while others are scattering in panic.

In the NRA’s deranged vision of a society whose members are all constantly packing heat for protection, imagine 22,000 armed Vegas concert fans returning fire while fleeing for safety. At best, they could’ve directed fire in the general direction of a hotel with windows stacked from floor to roof, and no clear idea of the shooter’s specific location. Picture police arriving to find dozens of people firing weapons in many directions; where’s the original shooter?

Adding an actual police officer to school staff has not improved safety, but has sent many unruly students to jail instead of detention, especially minority kids.

We do have background checks. Federal law requires background checks in all commercial gun sales. That won’t detect guns sold or traded by unlicensed sellers at a gun show, online, or at home. Around 40 percent of gun sales in America are made by unlicensed agents.

The background database is vulnerable too; the data it’s fed often is incomplete or missing. Many shooters only come to the attention of relevant authorities when they actually shoot somebody. Until then, they pass their background checks.

The “mentally ill” are frequently used as scapegoats for gun violence, but this is both unfair and misguided. More on that next time.

Jon Hauxwell, MD, is a retired family physician who grew up in Stockton and lives outside Hays.