This article was originally published in Issue 4, Fiftieth Year of The Minstrel (October 22, 2015). Click here to view the entire issue.
Terrorism. Mass shooting. Which sounds more threatening? Terrorism, of course. However, mass shootings claim the lives of thousands more Americans each year. They are a larger threat and little is being done to prevent them.
In response to the Roseburg, Ore. shooting at Umpqua Community College, President Obama challenged journalists to find out the number of Americans who’ve been killed by gun violence versus terrorist attacks over the last decade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 153,144 people were killed by homicide using firearms (excluding deaths by “legal intervention”) between 2001 and 2013, the last year that data are available. According to the Global Terrorism Database, an estimated 3,046 people died in terrorist attacks between 2001 and 2014, but a majority of the deaths are from 9/11 attacks.
That’s an average of 11,780 homicide gun deaths and 219 terrorist deaths a year. Considering those numbers, think about what Obama said: “We spend over a trillion dollars, and pass countless laws, and devote entire agencies to preventing terrorist attacks on our soil, and rightfully so. And yet, we have a Congress that explicitly blocks us from even collecting data on how we could potentially reduce gun deaths. How can that be?”
Americans expect high government response to and protection from terrorism, but even with the devastating Oregon shooting leaving nine dead, there were many protesters when Obama visited the victim’s families. The father of one girl, who was shot in the back and survived by playing dead, accused Obama of politicizing the tragedy and said he declined an offer to meet with the president. His daughter almost died by gunfire and he does not want gun control laws. Echoing Obama, how can that
A week after the Oregon shooting when Obama was visiting the families, there were two more shootings at American colleges. There was one dead and three wounded at Northern Arizona University and one dead at Texas Southern University. This has become a routine that America is numb to. There were three college shootings in October. Somehow mass shootings have become a norm, and America needs to realize they can be stopped.
Obama pointed out the government responds to weather disasters by improving community safety and highway deaths by fixing roads and enforcing seatbelt laws. Pew Research Center surveys reveal that most Americans support background checks, bans on assault-style weapons, bans on high-capacity ammunition clips, bans on online sales of ammunition and a federal database to track gun sales. Why is nothing being done on gun control?
According to UN data compiled by “The Guardian,” America has nearly six times the number of gun homicides as Canada, more than seven times more than Sweden and nearly 16 times more than Germany. When considering developed countries, America has the most gun violence in the world. A large reason for this is that America holds roughly 42 percent of the world’s privately owned firearms.
Other developed countries have seen huge successes by passing gun control laws. In 1996, after a man in Australia opened fire into a crowd killing 35 people and injuring 23, the country passed legislation that included banning certain types of firearms, such as automatic and semi-automatic rifles and shotguns. The government confiscated 650,000 of these guns through a gun buyback program where they purchased firearms from gun owners. They also established a registry of all guns owned in Australia and required a permit for all new gun purchases. Seven years after the legislation passed, Australia’s homicide gun rate dropped by about 42 percent and the suicide gun rate fell by 57 percent. Ultimately, fewer guns mean fewer deaths.
Obama repeatedly suggests that Congress is a major issue and urges voters to consider their views on guns when voting: “If you think this is a problem, then you should expect your elected officials to reflect your views.”