Selective attention on gun-related deaths

Despite the smaller number, terrorism still gets more attention. (Graphic by Lena Yang)
Despite the smaller number, terrorism still gets more attention. (Graphic by Lena Yang)

There were over 30,000 gun related deaths in the United States in 2012 compared to zero deaths due to terrorism.  There were 17 Americans killed in terrorist plots overseas, but none on American soil.  In 2013 of course, three have died in the Boston Bombings with hundreds more injured.  However, the numbers at the end of the year will still reflect a gross inbalance.  Despite the large number of gun related deaths in the United States each year, terrorism undoubtedly receives more attention from media, legislative bodies, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies.

Terrorism, via the War on Terror, has virtually unlimited funding while law enforcement at the local and state levels battle for fundamental resources.  The United States fears terrorism more than guns, in complete disregard of the evidence suggesting domestic gun violence is a substantially larger threat to public safety than transnational terror.  The American obsession with counter-terrorism and its generally apathetic stance on gun violence have been highlighted recently with the Boston Bombings and gun control debate occurring simultaneously.

Why does the United States ignore gun deaths and react overwhelmingly to acts of terror?  When murderers or shooting suspects are on the loose, there is a standard procedure in place in regards to law enforcement responses and public safety measures.

When LA policeman Christopher Dorner killed four people over several days in February, there was no lockdown like that seen in Boston.  Perhaps more significantly, there was no legislative or media response after he was caught to suggest gun control was the problem.

The Sandy Hook massacre sparked a debate for sure, but a bill pushing for background checks still could not pass due to the Republican minority.  Most Americans were in favour of it, but gun enthusiasts and their paid for politicians somehow manage to justify voting against basic background checks for gun sales.  If someone were to vote against a counter-terrorism measure, even if it was a justified vote, they would be deemed unpatriotic or even a terrorist sympathizer in the eyes of the US government.

But voting against background checks is actually perceived as patriotic for some whose misguided understanding of the second amendment fuels their pro-gun stance.  According to the United States, locking down a major metropolitan area is fine, but background checks for gun buyers are completely unacceptable.

The same day of the Boston Bombing, a dozen Americans died due to gun violence.  Are their lives somehow less valuable than the lives of those lost in the bombings?  Based on the reaction to both types of death, the answer would seem to be yes.  There is nothing wrong with apprehending terrorists, and the Boston response was a success for law enforcement.  But murderers wielding guns create terror as well, and justice should be distributed more equally for all criminals that take innocent lives.  If I lost someone, I would be just as distraught if they died in a senseless gun crime or a senseless act of terror.

And in either case, I would certainly be in search of justice, even if my loss didn’t warrant a lockdown or FBI attention.

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