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Why does America lose its head over 'terror' but ignore its daily gun deaths?
April 23, 2013 at 2:10 AM



Why does America lose its head over 'terror' but ignore its daily gun deaths?

The marathon bombs triggered a reaction that is at odds with last week's inertia over arms control

A man chooses a gun at the Gun Gallery i
A man chooses a gun at the Gun Gallery in Glendale, California. Photograph: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

The thriving metropolis of Boston was turned into a ghost town on Friday. Nearly a million Bostonians were asked to stay in their homes – and willingly complied. Schools were closed; business shuttered; trains, subways and roads were empty; usually busy streets eerily resembled a post-apocalyptic movie set; even baseball games and cultural events were cancelled – all in response to a 19-year-old fugitive, who was on foot and clearly identified by the news media.

The actions allegedly committed by the Boston marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan, were heinous. Four people dead and more than 100 wounded, some with shredded and amputated limbs.

But Londoners, who endured IRA terror for years, might be forgiven for thinking that America over-reacted just a tad to the goings-on in Boston. They're right – and then some. What we saw was a collective freak-out like few that we've seen previously in the United States. It was yet another depressing reminder that more than 11 years after 9/11 Americans still allow themselves to be easily and willingly cowed by the "threat" of terrorism.

After all, it's not as if this is the first time that homicidal killers have been on the loose in a major American city. In 2002, Washington DC was terrorised by two roving snipers, who randomly shot and killed 10 people. In February, a disgruntled police officer, Christopher Dorner, murdered four people over several days in Los Angeles. In neither case was LA or DC put on lockdown mode, perhaps because neither of these sprees was branded with that magically evocative and seemingly terrifying word for Americans, terrorism.

To be sure, public officials in Boston appeared to be acting out of an abundance of caution. And it's appropriate for Boston residents to be asked to take precautions or keep their eyes open. But by letting one fugitive terrorist shut down a major American city, Boston not only bowed to outsize and irrational fears, but sent a dangerous message to every would-be terrorist – if you want to wreak havoc in the United States, intimidate its population and disrupt public order, here's your instruction booklet.

Putting aside the economic and psychological cost, the lockdown also prevented an early capture of the alleged bomber, who was discovered after Bostonians were given the all clear and a Watertown man wandered into his backyard for a cigarette and found a bleeding terrorist on his boat.

In some regards, there is a positive spin on this – it's a reflection of how little Americans have to worry about terrorism. A population such as London during the IRA bombings or Israel during the second intifada or Baghdad, pretty much every day, becomes inured to random political violence. Americans who have such little experience of terrorism, relatively speaking, are more primed to overreact – and assume the absolute worst when it comes to the threat of a terror attack. It is as if somehow in the American imagination, every terrorist is a not just a mortal threat, but is a deadly combination of Jason Bourne and James Bond.

If only Americans reacted the same way to the actual threats that exist in their country. There's something quite fitting and ironic about the fact that the Boston freak-out happened in the same week the Senate blocked consideration of a gun control bill that would have strengthened background checks for potential buyers. Even though this reform is supported by more than 90% of Americans, and even though 56 out of 100 senators voted in favour of it, the Republican minority prevented even a vote from being held on the bill because it would have allegedly violated the second amendment rights of "law-abiding Americans".

So for those of you keeping score at home – locking down an American city: a proper reaction to the threat from one terrorist. A background check to prevent criminals or those with mental illness from purchasing guns: a dastardly attack on civil liberties. All of this would be almost darkly comic if not for the fact that more Americans will die needlessly as a result. Already, more than 30,000 Americans die in gun violence every year (compared to the 17 who died last year in terrorist attacks).

What makes US gun violence so particularly horrifying is how routine and mundane it has become. After the massacre of 20 kindergartners in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, millions of Americans began to take greater notice of the threat from gun violence. Yet since then, the daily carnage that guns produce has continued unabated and often unnoticed.

The same day of the marathon bombing in Boston, 11 Americans were murdered by guns. The pregnant Breshauna Jackson was killed in Dallas, allegedly by her boyfriend. In Richmond, California, James Tucker III was shot and killed while riding his bicycle – assailants unknown. Nigel Hardy, a 13-year-old boy in Palmdale, California, who was being bullied in school, took his own life. He used the gun that his father kept at home. And in Brooklyn, New York, an off-duty police officer used her department-issued Glock 9mm handgun to kill herself, her boyfriend and her one-year old child.

At the same time that investigators were in the midst of a high-profile manhunt for the marathon bombers that ended on Friday evening, 38 more Americans – with little fanfare – died from gun violence. One was a 22-year old resident of Boston. They are a tiny percentage of the 3,531 Americans killed by guns in the past four months – a total that surpasses the number of Americans who died on 9/11 and is one fewer than the number of US soldiers who lost their lives in combat operations in Iraq. Yet, none of this daily violence was considered urgent enough to motivate Congress to impose a mild, commonsense restriction on gun purchasers.

It's not just firearms that produce such legislative inaction. Last week, afertiliser plant in West, Texas, which hasn't been inspected by federal regulators since 1985, exploded, killing 14 people and injuring countless others. Yet many Republicans want to cut further the funding for the agency (OSHA) that is responsible for such reviews. The vast majority of Americans die from one of four ailments – cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease – and yet Republicans have held three dozen votes to repeal Obamacare, which expands healthcare coverage to 30 million Americans.

It is a surreal and difficult-to-explain dynamic. Americans seemingly place an inordinate fear on violence that is random and unexplainable and can be blamed on "others" – jihadists, terrorists, evil-doers etc. But the lurking dangers all around us – the guns, our unhealthy diets, the workplaces that kill 14 Americans every single day – these are just accepted as part of life, the price of freedom, if you will. And so the violence goes, with more Americans dying preventable deaths. But hey, look on the bright side – we got those sons of bitches who blew up the marathon.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/apr/21/boston-marathon-bombs-us-gun-law

Replies

  • glitterteaz
    April 23, 2013 at 2:13 AM

    IKR

  • turtle68
    April 23, 2013 at 2:35 AM

    Its mundane and all so yawnable ...because guns are a right and stupid people kill themselves and others.  We live in a country with 315 million...this is a trickle, hardly a blip.  because sucide people will kill themselves with a knife anyway so lets dismiss them.  Bad people have guns so we MUST have them.  Good law abiding citizens are careful with their guns, they train their 3 year olds well and its all good that they shoot bb guns at traffic.

    Remember...if they died from gun shot, its because they are bad criminal people.  Good people dont do that shit, well trained members of society dont do that shit and kids from 2 to 15yo KNOW how to be responsible with a gun, cause mommy and daddy taught them well.

    Oh wait....

  • Healthystart30
    April 23, 2013 at 3:09 AM
    Quoting turtle68:

    Its mundane and all so yawnable ...because guns are a right and stupid people kill themselves and others.  We live in a country with 315 million...this is a trickle, hardly a blip.  because sucide people will kill themselves with a knife anyway so lets dismiss them.  Bad people have guns so we MUST have them.  Good law abiding citizens are careful with their guns, they train their 3 year olds well and its all good that they shoot bb guns at traffic.

    Remember...if they died from gun shot, its because they are bad criminal people.  Good people dont do that shit, well trained members of society dont do that shit and kids from 2 to 15yo KNOW how to be responsible with a gun, cause mommy and daddy taught them well.

    Oh wait....




    !!!!!
  • EireLass
    April 23, 2013 at 9:00 AM

    It's about selfishness. We all believe that we can avoid being shot, by choosing a certain lifestyle. But terrorism is a little bigger, and you can't chose a lifestyle to avoid it.

  • NutHouseMomma
    April 23, 2013 at 9:10 AM
    The same reason alcohol is legal but not an issue for discussion. Innocent people are killed all the time from the use of alcohol by another person - yet, it still is legal. **shruggs** I don't see the connection with gun debates really...there were plenty of reasons presented to flag these terrorists, but yet again the ball was dropped. Maybe they freaked out because they realized their slip up. Pretty amazing how quickly they found these guys too. I'm on to how things are being handled....sadly their game of chess is predicatable...check mate!
  • talia-mom
    April 23, 2013 at 9:14 AM

    because there is no right to blow people up in the constitution

  • MsDenuninani
    April 23, 2013 at 10:39 AM

     There's no right to shoot people, either.


    Quoting talia-mom:

    because there is no right to blow people up in the constitution


     

  • talia-mom
    April 23, 2013 at 10:40 AM

    Yep.   But we have already outlawed shooting people.   Chicago has strict gun laws, so it is completely safe.


    Quoting MsDenuninani:

     There's no right to shoot people, either.


    Quoting talia-mom:

    because there is no right to blow people up in the constitution





  • MsDenuninani
    April 23, 2013 at 10:46 AM

     


    It is a surreal and difficult-to-explain dynamic. Americans seemingly place an inordinate fear on violence that is random and unexplainable and can be blamed on "others" – jihadists, terrorists, evil-doers etc. But the lurking dangers all around us – the guns, our unhealthy diets, the workplaces that kill 14 Americans every single day – these are just accepted as part of life, the price of freedom, if you will. And so the violence goes, with more Americans dying preventable deaths. But hey, look on the bright side – we got those sons of bitches who blew up the marathon.

     That's pretty much it.

    It's fine for us to kill eachother. But if a foreigner does it?  Hell, no.

    And we'll suffer all kinds of inconveniences to prevent terrorist acts, but any obstacle that keeps you from purchasing a gun a little bit quicker?  Unacceptable.

    It's completely irrational; and it tells us that the value we place on saving 8 year olds is dependent on how he died. 

    Legal pressure cooker?  Bad.  Let's do something about it.

    Legal gun? Oh, that's fine.

  • MsDenuninani
    April 23, 2013 at 10:57 AM

    Wait, we did?

    But why did we bother to do that?  Criminals are just going to shoot people anyway. A law outlawing shooting people just keeps people who need to shoot people to protect themselves from being able to legally do it.

    Now, if I shoot an intruder and the police come to my house, I'm going to have to justify what I did.  That's nuts.  A law-abiding citizen shouldn't have to justify their use of a weapon protected by the second amendment.

    Quoting talia-mom:

    Yep.   But we have already outlawed shooting people.   Chicago has strict gun laws, so it is completely safe.

     

    Quoting MsDenuninani:

     There's no right to shoot people, either.

     

    Quoting talia-mom:

    because there is no right to blow people up in the constitution

     

     

     

     


     

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