Why Don’t We Treat Guns Owners Like Potential Terrorists?

[Updated Below]

On an April 26th edition of Bill Moyers with Glenn Greenwald about the “High Cost of Government Secrecy”, Moyers opens the segment with the following:

On Fox News the other day, New York congressman Peter King said: “If you know a threat is coming from a certain community, that’s where you have to look.” Proceed with caution here, Mr. King. And first take a look at that “Council on Foreign Relations” analysis of an FBI study showing that from 1980 to 2001, around two-thirds of domestic terrorism was carried out by American extremists who were not Muslims. That number actually skyrocketed to 95 percent in the years immediately after 9/11. And the magazine “Mother Jones” found that of the 62 mass shootings in America since 1982 – mass killings defined as four deaths or more – 44 of the killers were white males.

While Greenwald takes a different approach, what I want to get at – which is something that I just recently wrote about — is that first quote that Moyers cites, because it says so much about how our political and social discourse on violence is centered in American life:

“If you know a threat is coming from a certain community, that’s where you have to look.”

And yet the vast majority of mass murders comes from white Americans with guns. So why aren’t Peter King and other tough guys like him who to act all tough as nails against terrorism doing more to address the community of people who buy, own, possess and sell guns?

In the meantime we have two tales of government: Big Government throws trillions of dollars at foreign wars and domestic surveillance to protect us from a relatively minor domestic threat, and Small Government that refuses to take any measures, no matter how sensible to limit the access of guns to those who may use them to kill innocent people, by far the larger of the two threats. And you guessed, the tough guys are both Big and Small Government advocates, whichever and whenever it best meets their political interests.

Could you imagine one these tough guys actually prescribing an anti-terrorism remedy to the sale and/or possession of firm arms: background checks, obligatory registrations, online surveillance? Of course not, we are a bunch of phonies selling snake oil.

Greenwald’s conversation looks at why it is that people around the world are mobilized to hate the U.S.A. And although he does raise some very good points, for example,

And when they’re heard, which is rare, but sometimes they are, about what their motive was, invariably, they cite the fact that they have become so enraged by what Americans are doing to Muslims around the world, to their countries in terms of bombing them, imprisoning them without charges, drone attacking them, interfering in their governments, propping up their dictators that they feel that they have not only the right but the duty to attack America back. And so I think the discourse then ought to really be focused on what is driving this war. How is it that we can do something that will, instead of perpetuating it further and exacerbate it further, start to think about how to undermine and dilute the sentiments that continue to fuel it, you know, 12 years after the 9/11 attacks.

The invisible victims are the women and children and innocent men who the United States continues to kill in places like tribal regions in Pakistan, in Yemen, in Somalia, in Afghanistan, at times in the Philippines. Places throughout the Muslim world where the United States sends flying robots.

We never hear about who those people are. And you can contrast it with the few instances in which the United States is attacked, we learn the names of the victims, we know their lives, we hear from how their family members are grieving, we never hear any of that in terms of the children, the women, and innocent men whom we kill.

In the Muslim world and it’s sort of an “out of sight, out of mind” dynamic whereby not hearing about them, we never think about them. And by not thinking about them, we forget that they exist. And that’s when somebody attacks the United States, it leads to this bewilderment, like, “Well, what have we ever done to anybody that would make them want to attack us?”

I mostly agree with what Greenwald is saying about our foreign policy, what I want to know, though, is with respect to our domestic policy: why can get so tough on the minor threats and refuse to do anything about the serious problems. Maybe Glenn has the answer above: because we are only ever concerned with protecting our own — and that means white guys with guns.

Update:

And from David Frum we get this article on “The Lives a Background Check Could Save“:

Thirteen hospitalizations for bipolar disorder and depression in a 12-month span – and still allowed to buy a gun. That’s the law as it stands now. Does it make any sense?

Imagine instead of killing herself, the woman had gone on an All American shooting spree. Now imagine that same woman were Muslim. You wonder whether our thoughts on background checks would change.

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