NY Review of Books: Terror and 'Hyperbole' Distract from America's Gun Problem

NY Review of Books: Terror and 'Hyperbole' Distract from America's Gun Problem

The current issue of the New York Review of Books carries a column in which David Cole argues that the passage of new gun control is difficult because of pro-gun hyperbole and because Americans inexplicably take terrorism more seriously that gun violence.  

According to Cole: “We read with horror of terrorist attacks around the world, mostly in far-flung places that regularly endure suicide bombings, improvised explosive devices, and the like. We breath a sigh of relief that we don’t have to deal with such violence.” Unless of course, you were in Boston on April 15, in Ft. Hood on Nov. 5, 2009, in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, or aboard United Flight 93 on September 11, 2001, or in the World Trade Center in 1993. 

Cole bypasses all these attacks on American soil and simply runs ahead with his argument: “Americans have a one in 3.5 million chance of being killed in a terrorist attack,” but “a one in 22,000 chance of being murdered.” 

That presents another problem inasmuch as Cole does not define what instrument these people are murdered with. Therefore, even if his claim is accurate, it only invites the question: how are those one in 22,000 murdered?

FBI crime stats make it clear that more of those people will be murdered with hammers and clubs than with rifles each year.  For example, in 2005 the number of murders committed with a rifle was 445, but the total number killed with hammers and clubs was 605.

Moreover, in that same year 905 persons were murdered with hands, fists, feet, etc. That is a 100% increase over the number who were murdered with a rifle. 

Cole accuses the NRA of keeping people’s focus off gun violence, and of using “hyperbole” to keep citizens afraid that any additional gun control will only open the door to gun bans and confiscations. All the while, Cole does not bother mentioning the gun violence that additional gun control has failed to prevent in Chicago–instead he ties gun violence there to the economics of poor neighborhoods. 

He does mention the way Democrats in Colorado and Connecticut have banned more guns this year with their new gun control laws.   

And he conveniently overlooks the fact that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) reacted to the heinous crime at Sandy Hook Elementary by talking about confiscating firearms. Heck, Democrats in California areconfiscating firearms right now–and passing new laws to make confiscation even easier. 

Cole makes two sensible points in his column: Democrats should give up pushing for an “assault weapons” ban and a “high capacity” magazine ban. The problem with these statements is that he does not say this because he recognizes the silliness of such bans. Rather, even after admitting that such guns contribute very little to gun violence, he says the reason Democrats ought to leave them alone is because talk of such bans will only “harden gun owners’ resistance” to other gun control measures.  

Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter @AWRHawkins