Terrorism Vs. Gun Violence: A Proportional Threat?

Most Americans would find these numbers surprising, expecting that more violence results from the terrorist groups at the forefront of our national security efforts. However, the data says otherwise.

One reason for this discrepancy between actual and perceived violence is where we see violence depicted most – in the media. Consider how the media covers the issue of gun violence in the aftermath of events such as the Las Vegas shooting, the largest mass shooting in U.S. history. In the days and weeks following such events, there are calls to action and in-depth reviews of existing and proposed policy. But too soon, the dialogue dies down until the next tragedy makes the topic relevant once again. In contrast, the threat of foreign terrorism is covered consistently, making it a looming threat in the minds of most Americans.

This dissonance between our responses to these forms of violence is not only seen in media depiction, but in our nation’s allocation of money and resources as well. According to the New York Times, in the decade following 9/11, approximately $3.3 trillion was spent on anti-terrorism efforts. Compare this appropriation of funds to the lack of gun control reform in the wake of mass shootings, and instead, the money actively spent by lobbying groups such as the NRA against measures to combat gun violence.

This is not necessarily to suggest that we should spend less on counterterrorism efforts. But these numbers should put into perspective how we perceive different threats, and they should cause us to question our inaction against the form of violence that is far more likely to affect us. The majority of mass shootings in the U.S. are committed by white men. Perhaps we have become desensitized to this image of perpetrator but are especially attuned to those who are Muslim or Arab.

It is easier to perceive a world in which violence is enacted by outsiders. It is much harder to face a form of violence that we as a society inflict on ourselves everyday.

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for every 1 American killed by an act of terror in the United States or abroad in 2014, . . . more than 1,049 were killed by guns.*

*Deaths caused by guns include all manners of gun deaths, such as homicides, suicides, and accidents.

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