Gun Violence Vs. Terrorism: We Can Fight Both, Dammit, This Is America

By Amanda Marcotte
Monday, April 22, 2013 10:11 EDT
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Crosses representing those dead from gun violence since Newtown.

Because of scheduling conflicts, the new episode of The Orange Couch covering last night’s Mad Men won’t be going up until late tonight. I apologize, but we’ll have a fun time hashing it out tomorrow!

Also, apologies on not posting Friday. It was hard to know what to say. I’m generally hostile to Monday morning quarterbacking the events of Friday without full information, so if you want that, you’ll have to go somewhere else.

I will say that as exciting and ultimately relieving as the events of Friday were, I hope that it doesn’t distract everyone from the more mundane, everyday realities of gun violence in this country. During the same time that Boston police were in a violent struggle with the Tsarnaev brothers, Chicago was subject to a horrific wave of gun violence that resulted in 8 people being hit by gunfire between Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. Last night, Seattle experienced a shootout that resulted in five people dead. Of course, most gun violence in this country is the result of suicides and accidents. David Waldman’s round-up of this kind of gun violence, as well as open assault, on Friday is a sobering reminder of how much gun misery is just a daily part of American life. A sample:

  1. NEW CASTLE, IN, 4/09/13: The police report said, “Kyle Tackett was very knowledgeable about the handgun and was very proficient in the way it functioned.” So knowledgeable and proficient, in fact, that he felt quite certain that it was OK when he was “joking around” by putting his .40-caliber handgun to his brother-in-law’s face and pulling the trigger. Sadly, Kyle actually turned out not to be all that knowledgeable and proficient, though he totally thought he was. Right up until his brother-in-law died in his house. At least he did the ResponsibleTM thing and first told the cops the 18-year-old had shot himself.
  2. FORSYTH CO., GA, 4/09/13: A good guy with a gun got a little tired of waiting for his so-called “fast food” at a McDonald’s. So, he got out of his car at the drive-thru, pulled a gun and shoved it in the face of the teenager ahead of him in line, helpfully warning him, “You don’t know who you are [expletive]-ing with,” and “You never know who you are [expletive]-ing with.” In this case, it turned out that the person allegedly being [expletive]-d with was Detective Sgt. Scott Biumi, 48, of the DeKalb County Police Department. But being thoroughly trained in how to safely stick a gun in a teenager’s face, I’m sure there was no danger, and there’s no reason he couldn’t safely be assigned to your child’s middle school.
  3. DELHI TOWNSHIP, OH, 4/11/13: Another three-year-old finds dad’s loaded gun under the bed and shoots himself. Additional note: After striking the preschooler, the bullet exited the home and got stuck in the roof of a nearby residence.
  4. SACRAMENTO, CA, 4/11/13: Just before 11 p.m. on Thursday night a man walked into Sutter Hospital with a non-life threatening gun shot wound. According to Sacramento Police, his friend accidentally shot him.

I’m not interested in minimizing what happened in Boston, don’t get me wrong. That was legitimately scary and it’s appropriate for the federal government to get involved for Boston to devote a lot of resources to capturing the presumed terrorists. I’m generally skeptical of people who float the argument that if we ignore or minimize religiously motivated terrorism, it will go away. That kind of thing always feels like scolding victims—both those who were directly hurt and those whose sense of safety was shaken—for feeling what they feel. The bombing was scary. I believe we can both emphasize how rare terrorism is and take the rare occasions that it happens very seriously. Simply wishing people didn’t have a strong emotional reaction to a bombing won’t change that they do. Showing that the government is responding to the threat and shutting it down (through the appropriate channels, of course!) helps reduce fear.

That said, I think we can do all this without ignoring the routine gun violence in this country that results in thousands of times more deaths than extraordinary terrorist violence does. In fact, the Senate’s inability to do anything about gun violence last week contrasted heavily with the effort that the government was willing to expend to capture a single wounded shooter on the run. These divergent responses were, I suspect, noticed by a lot more than the usual 20 or so liberals griping about it online. Hopefully that can be rolled up into more public shaming of people who put gun industry profits ahead of people.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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