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 4:14 PM
Updated: Feb 15, 2018 4:14 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.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 43170

Reported Deaths: 1548
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin13790791
Ramsey5357237
Dakota278196
Stearns254919
Anoka2477114
Nobles16976
Washington132441
Olmsted131920
Mower9902
Scott9234
Rice8958
Clay62738
Blue Earth6002
Kandiyohi5951
Wright5555
Carver5092
Todd4042
Sherburne3715
Lyon3592
Freeborn3160
Watonwan2720
Steele2661
Benton2433
St. Louis24116
Nicollet21212
Martin1765
Winona15315
Cottonwood1420
Goodhue1428
Le Sueur1421
Otter Tail1211
Crow Wing11612
Pine1140
Chisago1121
McLeod1020
Dodge1000
Carlton960
Unassigned9238
Pipestone904
Polk893
Murray850
Isanti840
Chippewa821
Waseca800
Itasca7612
Douglas750
Morrison701
Becker690
Meeker661
Faribault640
Beltrami580
Jackson580
Sibley582
Pennington540
Brown512
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Fillmore380
Renville373
Rock350
Swift351
Houston320
Lincoln320
Yellow Medicine320
Grant310
Roseau300
Redwood250
Koochiching241
Wilkin233
Cass212
Norman210
Big Stone180
Kanabec181
Wadena180
Aitkin170
Marshall160
Clearwater140
Pope140
Mahnomen131
Hubbard110
Stevens110
Lake90
Traverse80
Lac qui Parle60
Red Lake50
Kittson20
Cook10
Lake of the Woods00

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 35769

Reported Deaths: 756
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk7663185
Woodbury336044
Black Hawk254459
Buena Vista173711
Johnson14938
Dallas142831
Linn141684
Scott112210
Marshall110519
Dubuque101623
Story8808
Pottawattamie84213
Wapello71531
Muscatine69745
Crawford6803
Sioux5150
Tama49029
Webster4395
Wright4021
Louisa36713
Jasper35917
Plymouth3545
Cerro Gordo3451
Warren3371
Dickinson3093
Washington2549
Hamilton2071
Boone1741
Clay1511
Clarke1453
Clinton1441
Allamakee1384
Shelby1210
Mahaska12017
Carroll1171
Franklin1170
Bremer1167
Poweshiek1118
Pocahontas1091
Des Moines1032
Emmet990
Cedar961
Henry933
Hardin920
Cherokee851
Marion850
Floyd842
Guthrie824
Taylor810
Benton781
Monona780
Jones741
Jackson720
Butler702
Osceola700
Sac690
Buchanan661
Calhoun662
Hancock631
Harrison630
Iowa631
Jefferson630
Lyon630
Fayette610
Humboldt611
Delaware571
Madison572
Lee542
Monroe547
Palo Alto530
Mills520
Winneshiek521
Clayton513
Grundy480
Mitchell480
Winnebago460
Davis431
Kossuth430
Union420
Howard370
Lucas354
Chickasaw320
Greene310
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Appanoose293
Cass290
Worth280
Ida240
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Page220
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