Gun Murders vs. Terrorism by the Numbers

Number of Americans killed in domestic terrorist attacks, 2002-2011: 30

Number of Americans murdered by firearms, 2000-2011: 115,997

Gun Murders vs

Cost of the War on Terror since 9/11: $5 trillion

Cost of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms since 9/11: $12.32 billion

In the combined [pdf] US and European Union statistics for 2010, percentage of terrorist attacks that occurred in the US: .008

Among 23 developed OECD countries, percent of all firearm deaths that occurred in the U.S. in 2003: 80

Number of [pdf] 249 terrorist attacks in 2010 in European Union carried out by Muslim extremists: 3

Number of whites killed by other whites, primarily by firearms, in US, 2000-2009: 46,171

Requirement to board an airplane: Being viewed naked by the TSA.

Requirement to buy a gun from a private seller at a gun show: None.

22 Responses

  1. I’m afraid we are, to use an old expression, attempting to close the door after the horse has already left the barn.

    It would be interesting to see an estimate on how many guns are thought to be in our country.It has to be in the hundred million range.

  2. Personally, I tend to see the relationship between these two issues as more like “two threats that are both vastly more frightening to Americans than others which are largely taken for granted.”

    More to the point, I have the impression that the particular type of gun murder that really upsets people–completely innocent and unsuspecting people at a school, theater, etc., being randomly attacked during a shooting rampage–is realistically the source of harm to so few people that it could be regarded as a rounding error. AND at the same time hugely difficult to take meaningful action to prevent, both because there is a hardened opposition willing and eager to “die in the last trench” to block anything that resembles gun control, and because realistically there are very few plausible ways to prevent the intersection of guns and the mentally ill in a large, open country with a few hundred millions of guns (and climbing) in circulation.

    Given limited resources, I’m just not sure that there aren’t other issues where much more good can be accomplished.

    That said, I certainly support the goal of a disarmed society (e.g. Britain, Japan) in theory. And must allow that, strategically, there seems little inherent downside to gun control efforts at this point given that political “sorting” has probably advanced to the point where there are few votes left for Democrats, and particularly Obama, to lose among those for whom gun control is a deal-breaker. And likely zero chance of gaining votes from them, whatever they do.

  3. So is the professor saying the USG response to terrorism and gun violence should be proportional?

    Perhaps the USG should order illegal domestic wiretaps and Hoover massive data to filter out who buying weapons

    Perhaps the USG should accuse the mayor of Ilion NY to be in possession of WMD and declare war

    Perhaps the USG should decree it can order the summary execution or extrajudicial assination of any American citizen who runs afoul of US gun laws

    Perhaps the USG should disappear and torture any US citizen who attempts to blow the whistle on BATF misdeeds

    Perhaps the USG should declare drone war against any state that doesn’t surrender to the power of the US.

    etc, etc, etc

    Does the professor really want to compare USG reactions to gun violence and terrorism?

    Just sayin……

    • Maybe he’s saying the difference in what the government is willing to do is that the gun lobby is seen as white Americans in good standing, while the terrorists are all foreigny and unChristiany.

      After all, anti-abortion terrorists, who are white Americans in good standing, have largely succeeded in their goals yet rarely are called terrorists.

  4. Approximately 10,000 die each year in the United States from drunk driving, which is 100,000 a decade (similar to your firearm stats). The US tried to prohibit the manufacture, transportation and sale of alcohol in the 1920s. Prohibition didn’t work for alcohol, it doesn’t work for drugs, and it probably wouldn’t work for guns either. Banning something does not stop people from possessing something. And in fact some say it makes it worse. If they banned guns in America, guns would pour into the streets from mexico and the black market would create more crime. Sure, law biding citizens wouldn’t buy the illegal guns, but criminals would. Those who would use a gun to kill an innocent person would not think twice about a gun law. If they break murder laws why not gun laws?

    • The gun laws are not to take guns away from decent citizens but to regulate their sales to make it harder for the criminals and mentally unstable to obtain them. You personally wouldn’t have any problem getting them. And by the way alcohol is indeed regulated and it is still freely available to all.

    • That’s a fine argument against anyone who is proposing to actually ban all guns, but the vast majority of anti-massacre proposals come up well short of that.

      For instance, banning high-capacity magazines. You say that bans never work, but I can’t help but notice that absinthe sales in the United States were virtually unheard of during the period when it was banned, but vodka and gin were still legal.

      You point out that murderers would have no problems violating gun laws; how about federally-licenses gun dealers? They virtually all comply very strictly with the law – they’re honest businessmen, and trying to make a quick buck on an illegal deal puts their whole business in danger. We have heavily-regulated liquor stores all over the country, and I’ve never been offered cocaine by a liquor store clerk. Not once.

    • The ghettoes of our major cities are like the Wild West.

      Teenage gang members, other criminal elements with assault rifles, Uzis, and Saturday Night Specials have flourished. Gun laws don’t deter them – neither do laws against murder. These firearms are plentiful on the black market and cheap.

      In 1973, the City of Detroit had the highest homicide rate of any major city in the world. Since that juncture, in 1978, the Michigan Legislature passed the Felony Firearm Law which mandated a 2-year prison term for anyone convicted of using a gun in the commission of any felony. Later, the County Prosecutor in Detroit announced stiff enforcement policies for gun violations. As a result, a small dent was made in the homicide rate.

      The ATF does not get involved in run-of-the mill gun possession cases – only major trafficking rings. I have seen clear violations of the federal Gun Control Act of 1968 (in which the feds could have filed felony charges) only charged locally by the City Attorney the offender at the municipal level as a misdemeanor and then had a plea bargain where the offender has his case dismissed if he completes a probationary period without problems. The local enforcement unit collects the fine, the court gets their costs and the offender gets a “slap on the wrist”. Everyone goes away happy – especially the criminal defendant.

      There is a heavy volume of gun statute violation cases that circulate though the criminal dockets of the American court system that are rarely enforced to the full extent of the law.

      Tough gun laws are already on the books. There are insufficient resources for effective enforcement, a “Wild West” mentality that encourages gun violence, and widespraed black market availabilty of dangerous firearms that fuels high levels of gun violence in America.

      Politicians often have instances like the University of Texas Tower, the San Ysidro McDonald’s, Columbine, Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook in which they can come out of the woodwork and cheerfully promote their agenda. Obama and Holder had to have a certain sense of relief over Sandy Hook in that it gave the public a reason to forget “Fast and Furious”. The Gun Control Act of 1968 and the “Brady Bill” were products of tragedies in which our nations political and civil rights leaders were the targets of gunmen – yet neither law prevented Sandy Hook.

      • I hate to break it to you, Mark, but the public never heard of cared the slightest bit about the ginned up “Fast and Furious” nonscandal.

    • But a lot less people die from drunk driving since MADD changed the culture of American drinking. Driving drunk used to be seen as macho and an expression of freedom, like gun ownership is today. While MADD got laws passed to make it tougher on drunk drivers, it also created far more opprobrium for even getting started on the process.

      I remember when smoking was seen as macho and an expression of freedom too. Like the Marlboro Man (deceased). When government regulated smoking and its advertising, it woke up a lot of people.

  5. Why compare terrorist deaths from 2002 to 2011 to firearm deaths from 2000 to 2011? You should use the same slot of years.

  6. To be fair, most of that $5 trillion was spent on the Iraq War, which had nothing to do with actually trying to stop terrorism.

    The snake-oil salesmen just put “Stops Terrorism!” on the label because that’s what the public wanted to buy at the time.

  7. Gun control efforts as proposed by Obama (which make no effort to ban them) are I think important because they may shift our culture’s nature a bit, from its emphasis on individual rights to one in which we show more concern for our neighbors, a willingness to sacrifice a little for the common good.

    • Here’s something that I, as an outsider (green-card holding Brit) don’t understand.

      Esther says “show more concern for our neighbors, a willingness to sacrifice a little for the common good”. Isn’t that the soul of Christianity? Love thy neighbor, beams and motes, turn the other cheek and so on?

      And yet all these angry gun-toting folks seem to call themselves Christians … or have I got it all wrong?

      I once heard a quote (can’t find it now, to my irritation) that went something like “Christianity seems like a good idea; shame no-one’s tried it yet”. Cycnical, I suppose, but it keeps coming back to me.

  8. I think it’s important to remember that terrorist acts can be carried out with guns and that the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

    For example, take the murder of abortion provider George Tiller in 2009. It was both an act of gun violence and domestic terrorism. Here’s the legal definition of domestic terrorism for reference:

    (5) the term “domestic terrorism” means activities that—
    (A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;
    (B) appear to be intended—
    (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
    (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
    (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
    (C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

  9. You undercut your argument a little by not using the same time frames in your comparison. Deaths by terrorism should be from the year 2000, same as deaths by firearms.

  10. If you were to put aside the imperial hubris and were to consider the illegal wars, occupations and sanctions a as terrorism then you would need a new graph and every new born would need a state sanctioned live grenade at birth and thereafter on birthdays. especially those crafty Europeans.

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