Notes From the Fieldby Martin Weil

August 20, 2015

$800 Billion. 150,000 deaths. What do these statistics have in common?

According to Fareed Zakaria, sadly nothing whatsoever.

$800 billion is the total amount that taxpayers have spent on Homeland Security since 9/11. During that time, 74 people have lost their lives on American soil due to actions deemed to be terrorist events. While there is no way to know how many other lives the $800 billion has saved, I suspect it is not a very large number.

On the other had, in those same 14 years, 150,000 people have lost their lives in the US due to gun homicides, a constant 11-12,000 deaths per year since 9/11. To combat this deadly threat to life and limb, taxpayers have spent … well, nothing, according to Zakaria. Had terrorists been responsible for these deaths, one can only imagine the all-out response.

There is something very wrong with this picture.

As Zakaria points out, this is not a mental illness problem, as many on one side of this issue are quick to claim. We have 50 times the gun homicide rate of Germany for example, but hardly anything close 50 times the incidence of mental illness. We do however have hundreds of thousands, if not millions, more weapons in public hands.

Another popular gun rights retort to the recurring loss of innocent lives in mass shootings is just to “give everyone a gun.” It is hard to imagine a more apocalyptic vision than one of pitched gunfights in public shopping malls, movie theaters, schools and churches across America. If armed, well-trained, professionals on American military bases cannot defend themselves against this sort of threat, it is difficult to see how giving guns to grammar school teachers would lead to more public safety.

Of the many things that make me furious about today’s political landscape in America, the hijacking of the American public’s basic safety concerns by a well-funded commercial interest group is near the top of my list.

It is not an act of fate that has caused 150,000 Americans to die over the last 15 years. It is a product of laws, court decisions, lobbying and pandering politicians. And we can change it.

Zakaria is certainly more optimistic on this, and many other issues, than am I. But I will give kudos to this E.J. Dionne Op Ed in the WaPo as a rational look at what has to be done to make America safer from the lethal menace to each and every one of us from guns in America.

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