Roughly 13,000 Americans are killed by a gun in a homicide every year (this does not include the more than 20,000 Americans who commit suicide using a gun every year).
Let’s put that in perspective.
During the deadliest year for Americans of the Vietnam War in 1968, 16,899 Americans died.
During the Korean War, roughly 12,000 Americans died each year.
Those foreign wars consumed the U.S. government and the country. Today, the war Americans are fighting at home against gun violence is being ignored by our leaders, who seem to believe they can get by with doing nothing.
The massacre of children in Parkland, Florida, was but the latest horrific battle in this war, which claims an average of 96 Americans every day (combining gun homicides and suicides).
I am not an expert on gun violence, but I have spent my career working on national security. When America is losing its people to violent deaths at these rates abroad, it is always a war.
When Americans are being killed violently in this manner, the entire U.S. national security apparatus – National Security Council, State Department, Defense Department, intelligence agencies and more – is consumed at the highest levels with a comprehensive effort to stop the deaths. Principals Committee meetings (meetings of the national security agency cabinet heads) and the National Security Council (Principals Committee meetings plus the president) are convened regularly. Supplemental budget requests are made to Congress to urgently fund efforts to hasten the end of the conflict.
Gun Control and Gun Rights Cartoons
And yet, faced with the gun war here at home, the U.S. government repeatedly fails to even pay attention. Congressional Republicans cannot make time to debate the issue, and congressional leadership ignores pleas from colleagues to act. The Trump administration acts as though there is nothing it can do. Save for a minority, those who were elected and appointed to first and foremost protect the American people offer prayers and excuses as to why now is somehow not the time to discuss the policy implications of the latest massacre. The result is that the national consciousness forgets the war at home.
The media fails us on this issue too. During foreign wars, if an average of 96 Americans were dying violent deaths daily, it would be the number one news story in every major media outlet on a daily basis. One would not be able to escape the gruesome images and discussions of the violence on TV, on the internet or in newspapers. It would be pervasive, as it was during the height of the Vietnam War and the Iraq War.
But apparently, like our supposed leaders, the media has become numb to the war at home as well. It does not take long these days for the media to move on from the latest school massacre, and to rush past news of the regular local homicides by gun.
When America fights wars overseas, one of the obviously major challenges is that the governments of the countries in which the United States is fighting are not in control – America attempts to gain control with its allies by force. If in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan or any other war zone the United States government controlled the use of force – as it does in the United States – it would immediately impose stricter gun laws. It’s a no brainer.
A 2016 study by the Center for American Progress (where I work) found that, “Despite the many factors that may contribute to rates of gun violence in a particular community, there is a robust and growing body of research that demonstrates an undeniable correlation between certain strong gun laws and lower rates of gun violence.” For example, “Two studies led by Daniel Webster at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health demonstrated the impact of state laws requiring a permit – and background check – before an individual can purchase a handgun. When Connecticut implemented this requirement, gun-related homicides in the state fell 40 percent; when Missouri eliminated this requirement, gun homicides increased 26 percent.”
Looking at America’s epidemic of gun violence through a national security lens, there is no question that we are at war. And there is clearly a simple set of solutions available to drastically reduce deaths by guns. This is why America’s gun violence is so perplexing – why has the United States not imposed stricter gun laws to stop the violence?
America’s leaders who do not act to strengthen gun laws are guilty of a dereliction of duty. Those officials are actively undermining U.S. national security and perpetuating a war at home. They are allowing their own citizens to be slaughtered daily at rates only seen in some of America’s bloodiest wars.