© Josh Sager – April 2013
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.
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.
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
***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.
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:
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/