Russia, ISIS, yadda yadda. The biggest existential threat to Americans is other Americans—specifically, the ones armed to the teeth.
What do you think a mother would say is the greater threat to her child: Russia or guns?
I couldn’t help but ask myself that question on Friday when I heard the testimony of General Joseph Dunford, President Obama’s nominee to be the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, before the Senate Armed Services Committee. When Dunford was asked what was the greatest threat to the United States, he responded by ranking them in this order: Russia, China, North Korea, and ISIS.
Now, Dunford is undoubtedly correct when it comes to the global threats facing us, and those are the threats it’s his job to assess. But from a day-to-day perspective, our greatest threat, and I’d submit the more pressing one, is our fellow Americans. We kill far more of each other on a daily basis than any foreign actor has come close to doing in recent years.
1. Gun Violence: Every day 30-plus Americans are murdered with guns. We are talking over 10,000 Americans killed each year by gun violence. And every single day, including today, five children or teens are murdered by someone using guns; that is 11 times more often than children are killed by gun violence in other “high income” nations.
In fact, far more Americans were killed by gun violence in 2013 alone (33,636) than all the Americans killed on U.S. soil by terrorists in the last 14 years, and that’s including 9/11. (2,977 Americans were killed on 9/11 and only 48 have been killed since by terrorism on U.S. soil.)
Far more Americans have been killed by gun violence in 2013 alone (33,636) than all the Americans killed on U.S. soil by terrorists in the last 14 years, and that’s including 9/11.
2. Other Gun-Related Deaths: Apart from gun violence, another 20,000 Americans use guns to commit suicide each year. (Suicides involving firearms are fatal 85 percent of the time in contrast to about a 3 percent fatality rate when using pills.) When you combine the above numbers with the 560 people accidentally killed by guns on an annual basis, that comes out to more than 32,000 Americans who die each year by firearms. These numbers really brought it home for me: Between 2000 and 2010, 335,609 people died from guns in our country; that’s more than the entire population of St. Louis, Missouri. (318,000.)
3. Driving Under the Influence: Each day nearly 30 people are killed in auto accidents that involved an alcohol-impaired driver. In 2013 alone, 200 children 14 and younger were killed in crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers.
4. Domestic violence: Each day, three women are killed by their husband, boyfriend, or a person with whom they had been in a relationship. In fact, a study found that alarmingly, at least one-third of all women murdered in the United States in recent years were killed by their current or past male partners.
These killers of Americans are all distinct. There’s no one remedy that will reduce the deaths in all these cases. But there is one killer that truly jumps out as the greatest existential threat to Americans: Deaths involving guns.
Now I know that many on the right are preparing to regurgitate their tired talking point that this is a push to grab their guns. They are wrong. I fully support that the Second Amendment guarantees them the personal right to own firearms as recognized in the seminal 2008 Supreme Court case of District of Columbia v. Heller. (Amazing how many on the right applaud the Supreme Court when it renders decisions they like such as Heller but literally want to abolish the Supreme Court as we know it after the recent gay marriage ruling)
But how can we sit idly by as so many of our fellow Americans are killed by guns? It is as if we have collectively decided that these deaths are acceptable loses. Even after mass shootings nothing seems to change, generally due to political considerations.