America leads the world -- in this horrific way

Americans often think of themselves as belonging to an exceptional nation, and in many ways they do. They belong to a...

Posted: Feb 15, 2018 5:14 PM
Updated: Feb 15, 2018 5:14 PM

Americans often think of themselves as belonging to an exceptional nation, and in many ways they do. They belong to a tolerant, multicultural society that has led the world toward a more innovative and more inclusive future through new technologies and a unique embrace of diverse cultures.

But the United States also leads the world in other ways that don't match the often complacent self-conception that many Americans have of their own country. The United States locks up more of its population proportionally than any other country in the world, including authoritarian regimes such as Russia and China, according to the International Centre for Prison Studies.

It also leads in another dubious statistic: More Americans are killed by fellow citizens armed with guns than in any other advanced country, according to the Small Arms Survey.

In 2011 alone, according to FBI statistics, more than 11,000 Americans were killed by firearms in the United States (a figure that excludes suicides).

Despite all the reasonable concerns in the United States about jihadist terrorism, in any given year Americans are almost 2,000 times more likely to be killed by a fellow American armed with a gun than by a jihadist terrorist. Since the 9/11 attacks, 103 people have been killed on US soil by jihadist terrorists, according to data collected by New America. In October, in fact, eight people were killed in a terrorist attack in lower Manhattan.

By contrast, in the United Kingdom, a country which is similar to the United States in terms of its laws and culture, Britain suffers around 50 to 60 gun deaths a year in a country where the population is around a fifth the size of the United States. In other words, you are about 40 times more likely to be killed by an assailant with a gun in the United States than you are in the United Kingdom.

To be sure there are occasional mass-casualty attacks in Europe by murderers armed with guns, such as the assaults by the neo-Nazi Anders Breivik, who killed 77 in Norway in 2011, and the attack in Dunblane, Scotland, at a school where 16 children were killed in 1996, but these are exceptions to the rule.

We still don't know the motivations of Stephen Paddock, who lin October 2017 carried out the worst mass shooting in modern American history, killing at least 59 and injuring more than 500 in Las Vegas, but what we do know, so far, is that he had 23 rifles in the room from which he launched his rampage.

Paddock also hailed from Nevada, a state that allows "open carry," which enables its residents to openly display weapons in public. Which other civilized country allows its citizens to show up, say, at a Starbucks carrying semi-automatic guns?

Texas is another open carry state whose citizens can carry rifles and handguns openly. Twenty five people and an unborn child were killed when a shooter opened fire at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in November.

A man who lives near the church used his own rifle and shot at the gunman, said Freeman Martin, a Texas public safety official. "The suspect dropped his rifle, which was a Ruger AR assault-type rifle and fled from the church," according to Martin.

The Second Amendment, of course, is the Second Amendment, so certainly American laws allow the possession of weapons by its citizens. But it's unlikely that the Founders' intention was to let troubled American citizens acquire arsenals to kill as many as their fellow citizens as possible.

With each new outrage -- from the Sandy Hook massacre to the attack on the gay nightclub in Orlando to the Florida high school shooting -- there follows a certain amount of soul-searching by the American public and policy makers about the distinctive American gun culture that has developed in recent years, where pretty much anyone can acquire an arsenal of weapons. But each time the moment of self-reflection seems to pass.

This is a tribute to the political muscle of the National Rifle Association which embraces a Second Amendment absolutism that allows even the dangerous number of less than 1,000 Americans who are on the "no fly" list to legally purchase semi-automatic weapons.

One can only hope that the tragic events in Las Vegas and Texas and Florida may change this. However, given that previous tragedies have not changed this deadly equation, there is really little reason for hope.

That resigns us to a dystopian future where Americans attending something as innocuous as an office holiday party in San Bernardino in 2015, or partying at a nightclub in Orlando the following year, or attending a country music concert last month in Las Vegas, or church in Texas have to live with the lethal reality that they may become the innocent targets of their well-armed fellow citizens.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the name of the shooter in Norway as Andres Breivik.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 750432

Reported Deaths: 13764
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1031991782
Lake556411007
Allen41662691
St. Joseph36974564
Hamilton36561417
Elkhart29390459
Tippecanoe22886225
Vanderburgh22549400
Porter19348325
Johnson18432388
Hendricks17608317
Clark13206193
Madison13139344
Vigo12608253
LaPorte12415221
Monroe12188175
Delaware10954198
Howard10285225
Kosciusko9619119
Hancock8562145
Bartholomew8164157
Warrick7856156
Floyd7781180
Grant7232179
Wayne7160201
Boone6939103
Morgan6746141
Dubois6214118
Marshall6208116
Cass6000109
Dearborn589578
Henry5895109
Noble580787
Jackson508975
Shelby500896
Lawrence4738122
Gibson444593
Clinton441455
Harrison441073
DeKalb439485
Montgomery436390
Whitley406343
Huntington402481
Steuben399759
Miami393169
Jasper387454
Knox375890
Putnam372160
Wabash360683
Ripley346970
Adams345355
Jefferson335785
White331553
Daviess3033100
Wells295181
Decatur289992
Greene286885
Fayette284864
Posey273835
LaGrange273072
Scott270156
Clay266448
Washington245234
Randolph244783
Jennings235349
Spencer234431
Starke227958
Fountain220348
Sullivan214343
Owen211658
Fulton202142
Jay200932
Carroll193420
Orange188155
Perry187137
Rush175826
Vermillion174644
Franklin170335
Tipton166146
Parke149316
Pike138234
Blackford136232
Pulaski120547
Newton113736
Brown104043
Crawford102316
Benton101414
Martin91615
Warren83815
Switzerland8118
Union72810
Ohio57811
Unassigned0420

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1108146

Reported Deaths: 20122
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1286421460
Cuyahoga1157382208
Hamilton813551248
Montgomery525311041
Summit48395999
Lucas43343818
Butler38951604
Stark33318929
Lorain25658504
Warren24580303
Mahoning22355603
Lake21166387
Clermont20111253
Delaware18841135
Licking16660222
Fairfield16570204
Trumbull16537482
Medina15603271
Greene15272247
Clark14233306
Wood13287198
Portage13242214
Allen11910239
Richland11601211
Miami10843224
Wayne9130222
Columbiana9029230
Muskingum8906135
Pickaway8658122
Tuscarawas8643248
Marion8641138
Erie8056164
Ashtabula7147179
Hancock6996132
Ross6943161
Geauga6834150
Scioto6534105
Belmont6155174
Union584549
Lawrence5726102
Jefferson5675158
Huron5544122
Sandusky5439125
Darke5415129
Seneca5347126
Washington5318109
Athens523660
Auglaize501887
Mercer487385
Shelby476595
Knox4570112
Madison444065
Ashland435597
Putnam4336103
Defiance432298
Fulton432072
Crawford4036110
Brown402461
Logan387577
Preble3848104
Clinton379166
Ottawa373581
Highland359665
Williams348078
Champaign344258
Guernsey324853
Jackson318154
Perry297350
Morrow291840
Fayette285450
Hardin274965
Henry273367
Holmes2699101
Coshocton268960
Van Wert247264
Adams243156
Pike242835
Gallia240750
Wyandot234556
Hocking220162
Carroll197148
Paulding176542
Meigs148240
Monroe136344
Noble136039
Harrison114138
Morgan109624
Vinton85517
Unassigned03
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