Saving lives and protecting the public has been priority number one for the federal government since our nation’s founding. Every commander-in-chief declares countless times throughout his presidency that keeping America safe is his first objective.
But over the last 15 years, national security has come to take on a very singular definition.
The government has allocated billions of dollars to protect the American public against terrorism. In post-9/11 America, big city police budgets are dominated by counter-terrorism operations, the FBI and CIA are working around the clock to track down and arrest terrorists hiding among us, and the always-growing Transportation Security Administration continues to do everything in their power to prevent an airplane from being hijacked.
Before the Boston marathon bombings on April 15, the government’s all-out, spare-no-dime tactics were working flawlessly. We went over 11-and-a-half years without an official terrorist attack on the homeland. Despite dozens of attempted attacks in New York City and elsewhere, terror plots have been thwarted and wannabe terrorists have been brought to justice.
So why don’t we have the same commitment to addressing threats far greater than terrorism? On the day of the horrific tragedy in Boston, two dozen Americans were killed by gun violence. And 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 died from gun violence. One was a 22-year old resident of Boston. Since Newtown, we’ve lost 3,844 more of our citizens to deaths by firearms according to Slate.
Congressional majorities have made themselves clear: funding for counter-terrorism shouldn’t be questioned, but measures to prevent gun violence are off the table.
It’s time we start talking about gun violence as an issue of national security. America’s death rates by firearm are the highest in the developed world. Because it’s easier to access a gun in the United States than it is in Mexico, 90% of the guns used in the Mexican drug wars come from America, according to Obama. So, our lack of gun control is more than just an issue of national security and saving American lives—it’s a matter of saving the lives of thousands of Mexicans, too.
Our gun policies are the disgrace of the planet, and congresspeople’s inability to act, as the President has said, is nothing sort of “shameful.”
The obsessive attention given to terrorism and threats from abroad may be distracting us from the threats at home. It’s time for America to join the rest of the first world and adopt common-sense gun control.
When 89% of Americans support background checks and Congress can’t get behind them, something is terribly wrong. When a tragedy like Newtown can shock the nation but not change our laws, something is terribly wrong.
A change in conceptions starts first with a change in political discourse. Local and state governments have raised awareness about gun violence in big cities like New York, Baltimore and Chicago.
However, smaller cities and towns have governments more interested and committed to “gun rights” than gun control. Some police forces, even in places like St. Louis, have taken to policies focused on increasing gun prevalence to reduce crime. This method is disdained by most police forces, anti-violence campaigns and national governments. Still, St. Louis, and many small towns in America, as well as entire states like Utah and Kentucky, are moving towards arming teachers. Doing so, instead of getting the guns out of criminals’ hands, will probably have little-to-no positive effect on reducing the prevalence of gun violence.
The threat of terrorism is a threat we’ve met with full force, despite the rarity of its occurrence. The threat of guns, meanwhile, has been all but ignored, despite its commonness.