Make America safe again? Seriously?
An entire night of the Republican National Convention was dedicated to this idea, but the real threat — the slaughter that has taken the lives of 7,633 people so far this year — was never mentioned.
No, America was not safe for Charles Kinsey, the North Miami group home counselor shot by police while trying to calm an autistic patient playing with a toy truck in the street.
Both a caller and the police in the North Miami shooting thought the little toy truck the autistic man was playing with was a gun.
Of course. Why wouldn’t they? There are more guns than people in our country, so it made sense to assume a Glock rather than a Hot Wheel, even when the counselor was lying on the ground with his hands in the air, yelling: “All he has is a toy truck in his hand. That’s all it is.” Kinsey, who survived the shooting, told the officers, “There is no need for guns.”
But how much do you want to bet this conversation will become about unlicensed toy trucks before it comes close to calling out our country’s insane love affair with guns.
Many Americans function like everyone around them is armed. And, statistically, that is not unreasonable.
When police shoot someone under questionable circumstances — Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge or Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minn. — we’ll talk about police training and racial tensions.
When police are shot to death in ambushes — as they have been this month in Dallas and Baton Rouge — we’ll talk about fallen heroes and the dangers of the job.
When an immigrant shoots someone, we’ll talk about securing our borders.
When a mentally ill person shoots someone, we’ll lament access to mental health treatment.
And so it goes for religious extremists, enraged husbands or wives, gang members and drug dealers who pull that trigger.
But when it comes to addressing America’s gun culture, too many of us are silent. We’ve given up on the idea that anything can be done, accepting a slow-motion massacre just as deadly as terrorist attacks by ISIS or Boko Haram in other parts of the world.
In 2014, acts of terrorism — from shootings to bombings to arson and beheadings — killed 32,658 people around the world, according to data compiled by the University of Maryland’s Center for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism and cited by the Institute of Economics and Peace.
That same year here in our 50 states? We lost 12,591 people to gun violence, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
If you want to expand it to shootings — which range from a graze to a life-long, debilitating injury — 51,821 people were shot that year.
So yes, people’s lives are in danger, and we do need to make American safe again. But it’s not by fixating solely on terrorism.
Between 2001 and 2013, 3,030 people were killed in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil — a number that includes the terrible toll of Sept. 11, 2001, according to the University of Maryland data. But during that same time frame, records from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that an astonishing 406,496 people were killed by gunfire.
Yet at Making America Safe Again night in Cleveland, no one talked about our nation’s stunning gun death toll. In an open-carry state, the Secret Service banned weapons from Quicken Loans Arena, where GOP delegates cheered Chris Cox, the National Rifle Association’s top lobbyist.
Cox argued that November’s election could mean that a young mother home with her baby won’t be able to get a gun to defend herself if an intruder bursts into her house.
Nothing in either party’s platform comes close to keeping a young mother from owning a gun.
Come to think of it, thanks to the inaction of Congress, anyone on the terrorism watch list can buy a gun. So can any felon, convict or suspect who wants to go on Craigslist. How can that Make America Safe Again?
Is that who we want to make America safe for?
How about the 406,496 in 13 years?
The 12,591 people killed in 2014?
The 7,633 killed so far this year?
Nope. The people in charge weren’t going to talk about making America safe for them.
More than 100 times since 2011, Congress failed to approve even the meekest of gun-control measures.
They wouldn’t act in 2012 after 20 first-graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School were slaughtered by Adam Lanza.
They wouldn’t act last month after Omar Mateen, who had been investigated by the FBI before he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, killed 49 people and injured 53 others in an Orlando nightclub. It was the deadliest mass shooting in American history.
Even then, Congress refused to pass a bill that would keep guns out of the hands of people on America’s terrorist watch list.
Two nights after GOP delegates waved “Make America Safe Again” signs, Alonzo Jackson was pumping gas at a Capitol Heights station, not too far from the Capitol. Police said a gunman shot the 68-year-old dead and stole his car.
How about making America safe for people like him?
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