Tue, Apr 23, 2013 - Page 9 News List

US should fear its gun laws more than terrorism

The Boston Marathon bombs triggered an overreaction that contrasts with the lethargy over much more deadly threats

By Michael Cohen  /  The Observer

Even though this reform is supported by more than 90 percent of Americans, and even though 56 out of 100 senators voted in favor 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 a US 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 often it happens. 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.

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 far less 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 Sept. 11, 2001, 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 the US Congress to impose a mild, commonsense restriction on gun purchasers.

It is not just firearms that produce such legislative inaction. Last week, a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, which had not 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 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, evildoers, etc.

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