In an apparent attempt to prove once and for all that it understands guns about as much as it understands religion, the New York Times has unleashed Nicholas Kristof on an unsuspecting public with a missive that somehow manages to conflate immigration policy with domestic violence, gun control, and the prospect of sudden death whilst partaking of the loo. Not wanting anybody to be confused by this mishmash, Kristof slaps on the headline, “Husbands Are Deadlier Than Terrorists“:
Consider two critical issues: refugees and guns. Trump is going berserk over the former, but wants to ease rules on the latter. So let’s look at the relative risks.
In the four decades between 1975 and 2015, terrorists born in the seven nations in Trump’s travel ban killed zero people in America, according to the Cato Institute. Zero.
In that same period, guns claimed 1.34 million lives in America, including murders, suicides and accidents. That’s about as many people as live in Boston and Seattle combined.
So statistically, the risk of being shot is a lot greater than being killed in a terrorist attack. I’m sure an insurance actuary would be very impressed with Kristof’s research here. But then he hops a freight car on the stupid train, like a low-energy version of a hobo straight out of a Roger Miller song:
Above all, fear spouses: Husbands are incomparably more deadly in America than jihadist terrorists.
And husbands are so deadly in part because in America they have ready access to firearms, even when they have a history of violence. In other countries, brutish husbands put wives in hospitals; in America, they put them in graves.
Damn, there’s that toxic masculinity rearing its ugly head again. If it weren’t for guns, we could totally get these guys to take up something constructive, like needlepoint. Or, as is more likely, they’ll just take up something else–like a golf club, or a baseball bat, or whatever else happens to be within easy reach. Following Kristof’s logic, after gun control we’ll need to institute some form of husband control.
Kristof then prattles on about how those wascally Wepubwicans want to give guns back to mentally unstable people (actually, it’s a measure to restore 2nd Amendment rights to SSI recipients, which even the ACLU has supported) and make silencers legal (pro tip: “silencers” are actually suppressors, and are nowhere near silent)–stuff that’s way more dangerous than what he calls a “repugnant” travel ban:
Trump is raging about a risk from refugees that seems manageable, even as he talks about relaxing rules on another threat, guns, that is infinitely more lethal.
This reminds me of certain segments in the British government during the Troubles, during which they spoke of an “acceptable level of violence” from the IRA. Here, Kristof argues much the same thing: so long as the bodies don’t pile up too high, the terrorism that comes with a mass influx of Muslim refugees is an acceptable risk–especially in light of all the gun violence in the United States.
And you know what? Statistically, he is correct.
But that doesn’t mean his argument isn’t balderdash.
Typical Americans don’t walk around in fear of gun violence, because in a country of 330 million people, the odds of anybody being a victim of gun violence is infinitesimally small. The same holds true for terrorism, of course–but think about the other ways in which terrorism has affected the life of every American since 9/11. You get herded like cattle through airport security lines, forced to remove your shoes and toss out all your liquids before you’re allowed to board a plane. Old ladies get picked out at random for enhanced security screening, and have to suffer the indignity of getting groped–all for the privilege of flying from Point A to Point B in a supposedly free country. The federal government monitors our phone calls, emails and web browsing. Security cameras follow our every move, everywhere. Privacy is a thing of the past. The impact of all this on civil liberties is staggering.
And none of it happened because of domestic violence. It happened because of terrorism.
Now think about another mass-casualty attack inside the United States. Would it turn us into even more of a surveillance state? If it’s big enough, how will it affect the economy? Stocks took a trillion dollar hit after 9/11. What would happen if there were simultaneous attacks on major American cities? How big of a national disaster would that be?
Now can you see the difference, Monsieur Kristof?