February 15, 2018

Mass Shootings Are a National Security Threat

We need to guard ourselves from gun violence as ferociously as we guard against threats abroad

By Phillip Carter

Seventeen dead would have been a bad day in Iraq or Afghanistan at the height of our wars there. To see the same death toll Wednesday at a U.S. high school suggests American soil has become a battlefield, too.

A day before Nikolas Cruz’s shooting rampage in Florida and 1,000 miles away in Washington, the leaders of the nation’s 17 intelligence agencies briefed Congress on their 2018 worldwide threat assessment. This assessment detailed myriad threats to America’s national security from abroad—China, Russia, transnational organized crime, and terrorism—but ignored the threat from within posed by guns. Wednesday’s carnage in Florida illustrates the problem caused by this collective failure to see the existential threat posed by guns to Americans. As long as it remains easy for malicious people to acquire weapons like those used in Parkland, Las Vegas, Orlando, or San Bernardino, Americans will die by the dozens.

Guns kill more than 15,000 Americans a year, with the numbers of gun deaths rising slightly from 2016 to 2017. A pattern has emerged after each mass shooting: gratuitous offering of hopes and prayers, followed by proposals for stricter controls on guns or purchases thereof, followed by lobbying by gun advocates and manufacturers for the scuttling of those proposed controls. The net effect is the same, every damned time: Nothing changes. It is as easy to obtain a semi-automatic military-style rifle today as it was two years ago when Omar Mateen used one to kill 49 at an Orlando nightclub; it remains legal to buy bump stocks today, just as it was four months ago when Stephen Paddock used one to murder 58 in Las Vegas. The thunderous hail of bullets is always followed by the silence of a nation that cannot bring itself to do anything besides offer hopes and prayers.

Read the full op-ed in Slate.

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