From Arizona to Virginia, from Colorado to Texas, from Wisconsin to everywhere else, mass murders are much in the news. All of these incidents one common factor: the victims were injured or killed by a bullet fired from a gun. These guns were fired by people from diverse backgrounds. Some of the crimes were motivated by ethnic or political hatred. Some were probably motivated by psychotic delusions. The murderers are different, their instruments are the same.
Most gun violence is of course committed not during mass shootings but during accidents, suicides, crimes, and gang violence. If you ask convicted criminals, most will tell you they obtained their weapons illegally. But that’s not really the point.
There’s been a lot of chatter about whether to label shootings based on the ethnicity of victims or on political beliefs “domestic terrorism”. This is unanswerable, because it’s the wrong question.
All gun violence is domestic terrorism. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are victims of gun violence, and many times that live in fear of gun violence. This is the terrorism. Like jihadis with bombs, criminals who kill with guns are the hand of the terrorist, not the brain, not the soul. The heart and soul of terrorism is a culture that permits and encourages it. Whether it is Naziism, jihadism, or any other terrorist movement, there are those who lead, and those who kill.
In the U.S., we are terrorized by gun violence. There are those who lead the charge, who help cultivate the idea that guns are intrinsic to our way of life, that guns increase safety (!). They argue that “you” are the one who needs a gun, because “they” have them. They create both the threat and the solution. There are those that believe the lie. There are those who suffer. There are impotent legislators who wring their hands. There is you, and there is me.
Few civilized nations allow themselves to be terrorized by firearms. Why are we different? Is it our “tradition”? Should we re-think this tradition like we have other peculiar institutions?
First let’s admit the truth: all gun violence is domestic terrorism. And the guilty aren’t in prisons.