Almost every time we have a shooting spree – as American as apple pie – I react with the same observations: how (i) the U.S. is unique in the world in both the prevalence of firearms and the number of deaths by firearms, (ii) nothing serious has been done to address this, and (iii) when violence is perpetrated by someone foreign, we say it is due to the inherent violence and evilness of his culture and religion, whereas our All American shooting spree is never taken as a poor reflection on our values, even though the levels of violence in our society are overwhelmingly greater.
Just last week, we had such an example. Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, a Kuwati born immigrant to the U.S., went on a psychotic All American shooting spree in Chattanooga, TN. These killings followed in the footsteps of the recent White Supremacist attacks in Charleston – I’ll leave the discussion of what should and shouldn’t qualify as terrorism to Mr. Greenwald – and were almost immediately followed by a shooting spree at a movie theater in Lafayette, LA by what the New York Times described as a “Lone White Male”.
As a matter of fact, the vast majority of mass shootings in America are perpetrated by White males:
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.
And as is always the case:
when a crazy Muslim American shoots up an American military base – something oh so uniquely American – we immediately call it terrorism and blame Islam. But if that American man had not been Muslim, as in the other 61 mass shootings during the last 30 years (seven this year alone), we’d all be talking about mental illness, how we’d be safer if everyone were armed, and generally treating the senseless murders as an unavoidable natural disaster that lasts a two day news cycle.
Personally, I always thought that the only way to get meaningful gun control legislation would be in reaction to a Muslim shooting up the place. Heck, when two Muslim brothers murdered four people at the Boston Marathon with crockery – far less lethal or effective than firearms – in addition to the other charges of murder, they were prosecuted for the use of Weapons of Mass Destruction (aka, pressure cookers). Yet when the bearded Mr. Abdulazeez returning from a trip to Jordan was able to purchase and use fire arms, we continue to focus on the man’s religion and not on his very apple pie weapon of choice. Think of all of the things we have to go through at airports because of a failed shoe-bomber or a failed underwear bomber, and yet there is nothing that we are ever willing to do to restrict access to fire arms in America.
At the end of the day, we love our guns more even than we hate Muslims.
But the most telling part of Mr. Abdulazeez’ story is not about how the Muslim immigrant became radicalized or about some innate violence inherent in Islam. It’s how this Muslim immigrant integrated into American society and when push came to shove, and he suffered from mental illness, he turned not to Islam per se but to that unique All American modus operandi: the shooting spree. Like every American before or after him, Mr. Abdulazeez was a mentally deranged individual discharging a firearm he had no trouble getting access to.
Just think about Mr. Abdulazeez. After all his years in America, he went on an All American rampage and essentially became, like the Lafayette cinema killer, a Lone White Male.
Rid America of all its Muslims, and there will continue to be mass shooting after mass shooting. As long as the culture and prevalence of guns continues to mark our DNA, there will always be a reason for a crazy person to destroy life.