How do we prevent terrorism like the Orlando shooting?

Donald Trump built a good deal of his presidential run on histrionic statements about immigrants.  His assertion that refugees from Syria are “the great Trojan Horse of all time” is typical of his rhetoric that rarely has any association with evidence.  But an article in The Huffington Post by sociologist R. Tyson Smith, titled, “The Next Orlando: How Xenophobia And ‘Law And Order’ Talk Ignores The Real Danger — Guns,” shows that exaggeration, fear-mongering, and demands for lashing out aren’t limited to Republican nominees for our highest office.

Smith’s first point of contention with Trump is on the risk of attack inspired by religious fanaticism as opposed to killing done by political extremists.  He cites an article by The New York Times from June of last year that found that twice as many Americans had died at the hands of racists or anti-government types as those murdered by jihadists.  That came with a qualifier — since the 9/11 attacks.  According to the Times, the count in 2015 was forty-eight homicides committed by non-Muslims and twenty-six by self-proclaimed terrorists in the fourteen years following the deaths of almost 3,000 Americans in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania.  That does put things into perspective.  As does one of the sources for the Times article, data compiled by The New American.  Smith’s claim is no longer correct, thanks to the nightclub shooting in Orlando, among other incidents.

Having failed to consider the details of politically motivated killings, Smith goes on to assert that “when more guns abound in a particular region or context, there are higher rates of suicide, homicide, and unintentional shootings. Even police officers are also more likely to be killed when there are higher rates of gun ownership in that region.”  Once again, the data provided by his source, “Firearm Prevalence and Homicides of Law Enforcement Officers in the United States,” contradict his belief.  The District of Columbia is in the highest quintile for law enforcement deaths and the lowest quintile for firearm ownership.  Vermont is in the lowest for such homicides and the second highest for rates of gun possession.  Texas and California are in the middle of the pack for the deaths of police, while Texans have many more guns than Californians.  The authors of the study want us to accept that more guns means more risk for cops, but their conclusion was that “a 10% increase in firearm ownership correlated to 10 additional officer homicides over the 15-year study period.”  If that’s correlation, it’s exceptionally weak.  Homicides of ordinary Americans also provide Smith no support for his argument.  Compare rates of murder with those of ownership of firearms and the gun laws of the states in Virginia and Maryland or Indiana and Illinois or Texas and California as examples of how fewer guns and more onerous laws don’t prevent homicides.

As expected, Smith’s solutions are the usual list of bad ideas — expanded background checks, bans on “military assault weapons,” — though what those might be, he doesn’t say — limits on magazine capacity — at least he didn’t say ammunition magazines or clips — and a repeal of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, among other things.  In other words, as a substitute for attacking refugees, he’d rather attack the rights of American gun owners.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if instead of attacking one group or another, we respected the rights of all?  In this election season, that sounds like delusional idealism, but we can always hope.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of

Latest Reviews

revolver barrel loading graphic