We make it easy

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We don’t yet know the motive behind yesterday’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., but here is something we do know:

According to law enforcement sources, the weapons used, .223-caliber assault-style rifles, were purchased legally. According to The New York Times:

Two of the guns recovered were bought by one of the suspects killed in the shootout, and the other two were bought by a third person who is not considered a suspect, said a senior federal law enforcement official, who was spoke on the condition of anonymity. “We believe all four were purchased legally, but are still taking a close look at the two firearms bought by the” person who is not a suspect, the official said.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives confirmed that it had traced all four guns, and that two were purchased legally by someone linked to the investigation. But neither the senior official nor the bureau would identify either buyer by name, nor say which two weapons were bought by a suspect, or where they were bought.

Officials said the two assault rifles were variants of the AR-15, the semiautomatic version of the military M-16 rifle; one was made by DPMS Panther Arms, and the other was a Smith & Wesson M&P model, a designation meaning military and police. The senior law enforcement official said one handgun was made by Llama, and the other by Smith and Wesson.

Want to know where to buy a couple of guns like this yourself? Shop online at Walmart and save.

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Or if that might raise too many questions, check out a site like Armslist.com, the online firearms marketplace, where the terms of use amount to an honor system for essentially unregulated gun sales:

I understand that ARMSLIST DOES NOT become involved in transactions between parties and does not certify, investigate, or in any way guarantee the legal capacity of any party to transact.

I am responsible for obeying all applicable enforcement mechanisms, including, but not limited to federal, state, municipal, and tribal statutes, rules, regulations, ordinances, and judicial decisions, including compliance with all applicable licensing requirements.

I will not use Armslist.com for any illegal purpose.

If I am at all unsure about firearm sales or transfers, I will contact the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosive at 1-800-ATF-GUNS and visit the ATF website at http://www.atf.gov.

Need some hollow-point rounds for that shiny new (to you) gun? That’s easy and legal too. Check out freedommunitions.com where a case of 1,000 Rem 77 gr. hollow-point boat-tail rounds can be yours for under $600.  If you want to comparison shop, try bulkammo.com.

How about high-capacity magazines to maximize rounds on target and minimize reloading time? Gunmagwarehouse.com is the place for you. Here you can pick up a 42-round tan polymer magazine for your .223-caliber AR-15 for the low sale price of only $7.92.

OK, so you’ve got your guns and ammo, now, like the San Bernardino shooters, you need tactical clothes to complete the look. Rothco.com has you covered. And so you can stay in the fight as long as possible, armysurplusworld.com or govx.com can provide you with body armor you can trust.

After the terrorist attacks in Paris in November, I did an interview with one of the Detroit news radio stations, and one of the questions they asked was whether something like that could happen here. I was asked the same question after the Charlie Hebdo attack.

Of course it can. Everything you need to carry out an attack can be easily, and legally, acquired in the United States. We make it easy.

As we panic over refugees …

Tending to wounded Black Lives Matter protesters in Minneapolis. (Photo from Twitter)
Tending to wounded Black Lives Matter protesters in Minneapolis. (Photo from Twitter)

 

… This is happening:

Feds: White supremacists plotted to attack synagogues, black churches

The Washington Post reported, just a few days before Paris, on a plot by a group of Virginia white supremacists who intended to purchase land, stockpile weapons, and train for a coming race war. Two men were charged with attempting to buy guns and explosives from FBI agents posing as illegal arms dealers.

And it gets better. According to the FBI affidavit:

“[Robert] Doyle and [Ronald] Chaney and others known and unknown to the FBI, ascribe to a white supremacy extremist version of the Asatru faith,” alleges a five-page affidavit from FBI Special Agent James R. Rudisill. Asatru is a pagan religion.

Rudisill wrote that in September the FBI learned that Doyle and others were going to have a meeting at Doyle’s house “to discuss acting out in furtherance of their extremist beliefs by shooting or bombing the occupants of black churches and Jewish synagogues, conducting acts of violence against persons of the Jewish faith, and doing harm to a gun store owner.”

It would be comforting to think that this sort of thing is unusual in the United States, but the reality is more unsettling. Since 9/11, right-wing extremists have been responsible for nearly twice as many deaths in the United States as have jihadists.

I wrote back in July that while our popular imagination conjures up terrifying images of ISIS militants around every corner, terrorism in America is far more likely to look like angry white men with guns than black-clad jihadis. And it is still true.

Late last night, five Black Lives Matter protesters were shot and wounded in Minneapolis by what witnesses described as a group of white supremacist gunmen who had been earlier taunting the crowd of demonstrators. Police are searching for three white men in connection with the shooting.

So keep this uncomfortable truth in mind as you watch Donald Trump spew racist bile on the campaign trail, and as Chris Christie tries to rekindle his failing campaign by exploiting a climate of fear by invoking memories of 9/11.

ISIS comes to Paris

 

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I haven’t written about Paris yet. It’s not that my training, or the expertise I’ve developed over many years of teaching about terrorism, or the research I’ve done on political violence aren’t somehow relevant. After all, I was perfectly happy to spend 15 minutes recording an interview with the local Detroit news radio station Friday evening when much of what was known was largely speculative.

I’m not alone in this reticence to blog about Paris. My friend and fellow academic blogger Steve Saideman (who I both credit and blame for encouraging me to start blogging) likewise has held back, and for many of the same reasons as I have.

I don’t have a lot to say that others haven’t said. Yes, the coordinated series of attacks in Paris represent an evolution of ISIS strategy, adding a transnational component to what has heretofore been an essentially regional campaign. It potentially represents the development of new capabilities as well. Up until this point ISIS has been content to inspire and encourage lone wolves to act in the movement’s name.

Couple Paris with the downing of a Russian airliner flying out of Egypt and we have something that looks new. Beirut not so much, given that ISIS has struck targets in neighboring states before now. But Daniel Byman of Georgetown has covered this terrain already, and the media has picked up the thread here and here. I have little to add.

The inevitable question is whether the United States could be next. The easy and obvious answer is yes. It could happen here. But that’s not a new either. No society as open as ours will be able to prevent every possible terrorist attack indefinitely.

There will be a response to the attacks in Paris, and it will be a military one. In fact strikes have already begun. France has not been shy about using force, and doing so unilaterally, against Islamist movements. It’s one reason France has been in the crosshairs of groups like ISIS and other extremist groups.

In short, I have no new wisdom to add here. And I will confess, as an academic my tendency would be to focus my thoughts and comments on all the well-worn pathways of dispassionate political and strategic analysis alluded to above.

But frankly there’s more than enough of that to go around. What is sorely lacking, and which I’m not comfortable providing, is something more emotionally meaningful, more humane, than what people like me will typically deliver.

So instead, let me give you something else. Let me leave you with the words of a friend of mine from Belfast, Colm Mac Aindreasa, who earlier today posted the following on social media:

Just a thought.

As the dust settles and the tears flow, the atrocities of Paris, Beirut, Gaza, Syria and a raft of others brought numbing shock, followed by fear, and finally anger. On our tvs, radios and social media feeds, angry people spout hatred, and cry for bloody vengeance. And through it all runs fear. Fear and suspicion. Suspicion of strangers, fear of difference. From Francois Hollande’s calls for a pitiless response, to the most illiterate keyboard warriors and their calls for carpet-bombings, it is clear that IS has achieved its goal. Fear and distrust now rule the land.

The foul deeds of IS and others doesn’t just close borders, it closes hearts and minds as well. That persistent clicking you hear is keyboards calling for blood, guns being loaded and doors being locked as we retreat into isolation and fear. And just as the bombers intended, behind locked doors and twitching curtains our humanity withers.

Humanity can always be judged by how we treat others. And I don’t want my humanity to succumb to atrophy. So here’s what I suggest. Take your humanity out and give it some exercise. Whether your neighbours are Catholic or Protestant, Muslim or Jew, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, Jedi or atheist, be thankful that they give you such a rich life to live. Talk to your neighbour, don’t just hunch your shoulders and nod as you pass. Ask those around you how they are. How are their families? Offer help if you can, and encouragement if you can’t. Share a sandwich. Lend a book. Borrow a book. Help carry that heavy shopping bag. Complain about the weather. Share a joke, a smile, a laugh.

Think of this as taking your humanity to the gym. Your humanity is strengthened and reaffirmed. Your life is richer and so is your neighbour’s. That sends a clear an unequivocal message to IS and to the dark powers that created them. And the message is “You failed. I’m still human”.

American holocaust (updated)

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I would ask news organizations — because I won’t put these facts forward — have news organizations tally up the number of Americans who’ve been killed through terrorist attacks over the last decade and the number of Americans who’ve been killed by gun violence, and post those side-by-side on your news reports.  This won’t be information coming from me; it will be coming from you. — President Barack Obama

I had come in to my office this morning planing to answer the president’s call to display, side by side, the number of Americans killed by terrorism over the last 10 years versus those slain by gun violence. Turns out I don’t have to.

First, from CNN:

Using numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we found that from 2004 and 2013, 316,545 people died by firearms on U.S. soil. (2013 is the most recent year CDC data for deaths by firearms is available.) This data covered all manners of death, including homicide, accident and suicide.

According to the U.S. State Department, the number of U.S. citizens killed overseas as a result of incidents of terrorism from 2004 to 2013 was 277.

In addition, we compiled all terrorism incidents inside the U.S.* and found that between 2004 and 2013, there were 36 people killed in domestic acts of terrorism. This brings the total to 313.

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Second from the Washington Post:

It’s incontrovertibly true that more people in America die from gun violence each year than die from terrorism. How “terrorism” is defined can be tricky, as we’ve noted in the past, but we can look at data compiled by the Global Terrorism Database at the University of Maryland.

It estimates that 18 people died in terror attacks in the United States last year — of 3,521 total between 1970 and 2014. By comparison, the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive figures that 9,948 people have been killed by gun violence so far in 2015.

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Finally from Forbes:

According to Justice and State Department data published by Vox, over ten thousand Americans are killed by gun violence every year. Since 9/11, the number of U.S. citizens killed in terrorist attacks each year has never surpassed 75. Obama has pointed out that while the U.S. rightfully pours trillions of dollars into protecting its citizens from terrorism, Congress is unwilling to take even the most minor steps to eradicate gun violence.

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Yes, the raw numbers in each graph are different, but the relationship is unmistakable. Deaths of Americans due to terrorism are trivial compared to the slaughter that Americans inflict upon themselves through gun violence.

A political system that cannot address this crisis is nothing less than a failure. Political leaders who refuse to take even the most modest steps to address this crisis have the blood of innocents on their hands.


Update

Speaking of leaders refusing to take modest steps, or even acknowledge that there’s a problem, this today from Jeb Bush:

We’re in a difficult time in our country and I don’t think more government is necessarily the answer to this. It’s very sad to see, and I resist this notion because we had this challenge as governor – stuff happens. There’s always a crisis, and the impulse is always to do something and it’s not necessarily the right thing to do.

You can listen for yourself.