Americans Fear Foreign Terrorism but Ignore the More Deadly Domestic Gun-Murder Epidemic

© Josh Sager – April 2013

guns-shooting-vs-shoe-terrorist-John-Oliver

Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the start of the so-called “war on terror,” Americans have approved the expenditure of trillions of dollars and overlooked severe contractions our civil liberties in service of preventing future terrorism. While terrorism is a very real threat to the United States, the response to the threat of terrorism is disproportionately higher than the response to the far-larger threat of domestic gun violence.

In the United States, you are immeasurably more likely to be killed by an American criminal or lunatic with a gun than some foreign terrorist. The degradation of our country’s gun laws—heralded in by the gun lobby and their conspiracy theory constituency—has allowed thousands of dangerous people to get their hands on guns that can kill many people, in very short amounts of time.

Unfortunately, American public policy is extremely lopsided in its responses to both gun violence and terrorism: Our government spends prohibitively large sums of money and violated basic human rights in service of “stopping terrorism,” while, at the same time, completely ignoring the issue of gun murder.

 

Terrorism

On September 11th, 2001, the unthinkable happened—Islamic extremists perpetrated a series of terrorist attacks on the United States that resulted in the destruction of NYC’s World Trade Towers, damage to the Pentagon, and four plane-loads of people dying. Ultimately, the death toll of these attacks totaled 2,996 Americans.

In response to 9/11, the American government created new government departments, started two wars, eviscerated American civil liberties, and spent over $2 trillion in order to “prevent the next 9/11.” Bush responded to 9/11 by attacking Afghanistan to kill Bin Laden (a task that he promptly forgot), and using the attacks to justify his unjustifiable war in Iraq (remember the smoking gun that could be a mushroom cloud?). At the same time, the Department of Homeland Security, a massive intelligence umbrella organization, was created and tasked with preventing future attacks. The intelligence services of the country were given extraordinary new powers (some of which we still don’t know about), including the right to spy on Americans without a warrant, the ability to torture detainees, and the power to operate a fleet of killer robots that kill largely random people in certain areas of the world. Such a reaction would be unthinkable in the days before 9/11, but the attacks blinded the American people with fear and let those in power do whatever they could to make people feel safe.

 

Gun Murder

Regardless of what many will claim, it is a demonstrable fact that deaths due to terrorism are far-eclipsed by deaths due to domestic gun violence. Over the past decades, the United States has been the center of an epidemic of gun violence that makes every other developed country look at us and wonder. The United States experiences over 10,000 gun murders a year, which means that—even when our country’s large population is taken into account—we have the highest gun murder rate of any developed country.

Gun Deaths in the 10 Years after September 11th, 2001

  2011: 11,101***
2010: 11,078
2009: 11,493
2008: 12,179
2007: 12,632
2006: 12,791
2005: 12,352
2004: 11,624
2003: 11,920
2002: 11,829

***The last 3 months of gun deaths in 2001 are statistically similar to the same period in 2011***

In the decade after the September 11th terrorist attacks, approximately 119,000 Americans were murdered with guns in our country—this death toll is the equivalent to forty 9/11 attacks, which averages out to a 9/11 attack every three months for an entire decade.

As a response to the epidemic of gun murder in our country, our politicians rallied, got together and…did absolutely nothing. Unlike with terrorism, gun violence is diffuse and constant, thus people can often ignore it in a way that is impossible with planes flying into buildings—there are exceptions to this (ex. when children are slaughtered at Sandy Hook), but such crimes quickly leave the mind of the public and no serious changes come out of them.

Over the last decade and a half, the only federal movement on gun policy in the United States has been in favor of more guns, not less. The Bush administration let the assault weapons ban lapse and no real restrictions on guns have been passed since. Even in the aftermath of the murder of dozens of children and teachers in the Sandy Hook massacre, the fight to get new gun control regulations into the law is a hugely uphill fight and one that gun control advocates in unlikely to win.

 

Comparison

Given the plain reading of the statistics, it is clear that our country’s gun murder epidemic is far more deadly to Americans than any terrorist attack. Despite this clear disparity, our government refuses to do anything to combat gun murder, largely out of a fear of a backlash from the highly organized gun lobby.

If you learn better visually, here is a comparison of gun deaths and terrorism deaths:

gun-deaths

If we can justify spending trillions of dollars and sacrificing some of our civil rights (ex. The Patriot Act) to stop the 9/11 terrorist attacks from happening again, how is it that we can justify ignoring an ongoing and far more lethal problem plaguing our country?

The answers to this question are very simple:

First, the threat of an external and pernicious force coming into the country to kill Americans simply provokes more fear in Americans than the idea that some lunatic may shoot them in a mall. People are naturally more afraid of the “other,” particularly when we are taught that this “other” exists for the sole purpose of imposing his religion onto you and is perfectly willing to blow himself up in order to achieve his goals.

Second, there is a huge quantity of misinformation surrounding our history with guns. Many believe that guns are part of the American heritage and that gun violence is simply the price that we pay to keep our liberties. Among these people, there are even some who want more guns in society and fear the threat of black helicopters taking over our country more than either lunatics with guns or terrorists.

Third, there is an organized movement dedicated solely to stopping any increase in gun regulations—this simply does not exist for anti-terrorism policy. These people intimidate lawmakers by threatening to spend them into oblivion during elections and stop any sane gun laws from being enacted.

Finally, terrorism is designed to evoke fear and is often achieved through very ostentatious means—they blow up a building, launch an attack on an embassy, or destroy a monument. As it is designed to make a statement, terrorism is simply more visible and memorable than a scattering of visually-unrelated gun deaths every day. Basically, if a thousand people are killed in a month by murderers with guns, it often less talked about than when a dozen Americans are killed on the other side of the globe by terrorists (Benghazi).

We need federal gun control legislation now! We cannot stand by and let thousands of Americans—including innumerable children—die due to our inaction or due to our politicians’ fear of moneyed interests.

To anybody who wants to argue gun control’s effectiveness or legality, please go to the following link, as I have logically debunked the top 21 anti-gun control arguments: https://theprogressivecynic.com/debunking-right-wing-talking-points/refuting-gun-enthusiasts-anti-gun-control-arguments/

 

6 thoughts on “Americans Fear Foreign Terrorism but Ignore the More Deadly Domestic Gun-Murder Epidemic

  1. Your point is very well made! America is, and for a long time has been, immersed in a gun violence epidemic. The current response to the latest outrage, Sandy Hook, is widespread but even if assault weapons are banned, ammunition clips are restricted and gun registration rules are tightened (and we all know the best we can expect is success for several of these at very best) little will change. The gun violence epidemic will be only minimally impacted.
    The real problem is that Americans, from the President, The Supreme Court, the Congress
    down to the people at large, believe that ‘the individual’s right to keep and bear arms’ is a permanent and irreversible mandate. It is this acceptance of the unacceptable that is the virus which sustains the epidemic! Unless and until the Second Amendment which upholds this ‘right’ is challenged and drastically modified to outlaw most individual gun ownership, little will change.
    Firearms and people are a deadly combination. A gun endows an individual with ‘vigilante’ power, the ability to take the law into their own hands, to abuse, to threaten and to kill. A law abiding society cannot condone individuals using firearms against others for any reason. A shooter likely becomes a killer and killing is against the law! So called ‘self defense’ can never be an acceptable justification for an individual to possess a firearm in a law abiding society!
    Gun proponents talk endlessly about ‘responsible gun ownership’. The fact is that gun owners, their families and their neighbors are significantly more likely to be shot than non -gun owners. Owning guns then is the height of irresponsibility unless there is a legitimate reason (a rifle for a hunter perhaps).
    In the context of modern times, with the availability of a frightening array of advanced, high capacity weapons and terrifying mutilating ammunition and after all the deaths, a million plus since John Lennon was gunned down in NY in 1980, at an average of thirty plus thousand per year or six hundred per week (homicides, suicides, accidents), it is unbelievable that we allow widespread individual firearm possession to continue!
    Had individual gun ownership been restricted to only owners with a genuine need (hunters with a rifle, law enforcement personnel) likely at least eight hundred thousand of that million who died since John Lennon would not have died. Almost certainly, the Sandy Hook and Aurora atrocities would not have happened.
    We have to wake up and demand action. Surely, our leaders, whose highest oath is to protect the people, first and foremost at home in America, should not condone a continuation of this Second Amendment.
    Australia reacted as a united country after their Tasmanian mass shooting of 35 in 1996.
    They banned weapons for ‘self defense’ and condoned firearms only for those with real needs (hunters, farmers, law enforcement) and then only with appropriate firearms. Hand guns were thus outlawed for most. As a result, 650,000 weapons were handed in/ confiscated with government financial compensation. Despite a population boom since, gun deaths are now less than half what they were in 1996 and there has not been a single mass shooting over the last thirteen years!
    The NRA’s response to Sandy Hook was a suggestion that teachers and schools be armed to prevent further shootings. More guns, they say, are the answer. We have over 60 registered heavily armed militias across the country sworn to protect us against a rogue government. They themselves are the threat! We have daily street shoot outs between youthful gang members with lots of innocent bystander deaths. We have thousands of accidental deaths, lots of children among them, every year. It cannot go on.
    While an estimated 100,000,000 Americans own the estimated 300,000,000 firearms, 200,000,000 of us choose not to own guns. The NRA has an estimated 6,000,000 members, which means close to 300,000,000 or 99% of us do not belong!
    We are the huge majority. We must stop indulging this gun wielding minority! Guns are not toys, they are instruments of death that threaten all of us!
    We must demand our and our children’s Constitutional rights for life, liberty and pursuit of happiness in an America free of the constant threat of gun violence.
    These fundamental rights are grotesquely compromised by the Second Amendment and we must challenge it on this basis.
    Our children should be safe in their homes, on the streets, in the parks and in their schools. Right now, none of us are safe anywhere while individuals continue to have the right to keep and bear arms?

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  2. When I had first read this on August 28th, I started to read Victor Spicer’s comment but didn’t bother to read anymore after the first sentence. Today, I was just bored and thought I could use a good laugh and decided to read it all. I have already referenced this Australian news report in response to a different article, but it is also appropriate to do so here as well.

    By the way Mr. Spicer, you SERIOUSLY under estimate the numbers of 2nd Amendment supporters. Just ask the two FORMER state senators in Colorado (where you will remember the Aurora theatre shootings occured) who are now out of a job.

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  3. I just discovered this site and it seems like what I call ‘radical sanity.’ I love it! I want to recommend, however, a book of mine that was just released, because it focuses on the possible effects of a fictional bio-terror attack. Readers of this post might enjoy this novelized take on a subject on everyone’s mind today:
    Jihad in America travels on the wind. Can the government, dodgy as it is, possibly stand up to a real attack?
    While a nuclear terrorist attack is unlikely, in a bio-terror epidemic, the genetically engineered plague is invisible. Our borders are vulnerable, and metal detectors are useless, even as ISIS, the Islamic State, raises its menacing black flag in Syria and Iraq.
    What if the government is helpless, gridlocked in perpetual party conflict and rancor?

    BEYOND TERRORISM: SURVIVAL is the fictional story of two unlikely strangers who found a way to survive the apocalypse, the most deadly terrorist attack in history.
    Read a sample on my website: http://www.sanmiguelallendebooks.com/beyondterrorism.html

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