Authors: Tom Diaz
THE LAST GUN
OTHER BOOKS BY TOM DIAZ
Transnational Latino Gangs and American Law Enforcement
Lighting Out of Lebanon:
Hezbollah Terrorists on American Soil
Making a Killing:
The Business of Guns in America
THE LAST GUN
How Changes in the Gun Industry
Are Killing Americans and
What It Will Take to Stop It
Â© 2013 by Violence Policy Center and Tom Diaz
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, in any form, without written permission from the publisher.
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Published in the United States by The New Press, New York, 2013
Distributed by Perseus Distribution
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING
The last gun : how changes in the gun industry are killing Americans and what it will take to stop it / Tom Diaz,
Â Â Â
Includes bibliographical references.
ISBN 978-1-59558-841-8 (e-book) 1. Firearms industry and tradeâUnited States. 2. FirearmsâLaw and legislationâUnited States. 3. Gun controlâUnited States. I. Title.
338.47683400973âdc23Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 2012047230
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Composition by dix!
This book was set in Minion
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With the deepest humility, I dedicate this book to all of the sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, grandchildren, friends, neighbors, companions, and passing strangers whose lives have been needlessly cut short by gun violence in America, and to the many times that who are our walking wounded, mutilated in body and soul by guns, and to the many, many more times the sum of all of that whose arms and hearts ache day and night for the embrace of their forever lost loved ones.
May a compassionate God have mercy on us all.
This book would not have been possible without the support of my former employer the Violence Policy Center. Executive director Josh Sugarmann did yeoman work in checking facts and offering substantive suggestions for the text. Marty Langley helped enormously in gathering data and assembling it into charts and tables. Kristen Rand's encyclopedic knowledge of federal law was invaluable.
The New Press and its fine staff are, of course, the keystone of this book. I thank editorial director Marc Favreau for giving me the opportunity to revisit this subject in depth.
Finally, I must thank my family. Writing is solitary work. Writing a book is monastic. They have paid the price.
THE LAST GUN
In the four decades between 1969 and 2009, a total of 5,586 people were killed in terrorist attacks against the United States or its interests, according to a May 2011 report by a conservative Washington policy institute, the Heritage Foundation. This number includes those killed in the terror attacks within the United States on September 11, 2001.
By comparison, more than 30,000 people were killed by guns in the United States every single year between 1986 and 2010, with the exception of four years in which the number of deaths fell slightly below 30,000â1999, 2000, 2001, and 2004. In other words, the number of people killed
in the United States by guns is about five times the grand total of Americans killed in terrorist attacks anywhere in the world since 1969.
Here is another perspective. In 2010, five Americans were killed worldwide by terrorist attacks.
In the same year, fifty-five law enforcement officers were killed by guns in the United Statesâout of a total of fifty-six officers killed feloniously.
(The fifty-sixth officer was killed by a motor vehicle.) In plain words, more than ten times the number of law enforcement officers were killed by guns in the United States in 2010 than all of the Americans killed by terrorism anywhere in the world that year.
It gets even worse. Every year, more Americans are killed by guns in the United States than people
of all nationalities
by terrorist attacks.
compares the number of people killed worldwide in terrorist attacks in the six years 2005 through 2010 with the number of people killed by guns in the United States in the same years.
Figure 1. Worldwide Terrorism Deaths and U.S. Gun Deaths, 2005â10
Terrorism deaths, U.S. Department of State,
Country Reports on Terrorism, 2008
; gun deaths, 2005â2010, Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, WISQARS, “2001â2010, United States Firearm Deaths and Rates per 100,000.”
America has engaged in a “War Against Terrorism” at tremendous social and financial cost since the so-called 9/11 attacks of September 11, 2001. As of March 2011, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a program called Operation Noble Eagle to enhance security at military bases, had cost American taxpayers $1.283 trillion.
In addition to the money spent on these wars, increased federal, state, and local costs for “homeland security” totaled more than $1 trillion over the decade between September 2001 and September 2011.
The scholars who compiled this number concluded in their 2011 book on the subject that “most enhanced homeland security expenditures since 9/11 fail a cost-benefit assessment, it seems, some spectacularly so, and it certainly appears that many billions of dollars have been misspent.”
According to Ohio State University professor John Mueller, one of the authors of the homeland security cost study, an American's chances of being killed in an automobile accident are about one in 7,000 or 8,000 per year; of being a victim of homicide, about one in 22,000 per year; and of being killed by a terrorist, about one in 3.5 million per year.
There is little sign that this “counterterrorism state unto
itself”âas the conservative
called itâis likely to wither away soon.
The Department of Homeland Security's budget request was $56.3 billion for fiscal year 2011, $57 billion for FY 2012, and $39.5 billion for FY2013.
In contrast, the combined budget request for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry was $11.3 billion for FY2012 and $11.2 billion for FY2013.
The specter of terrorism that drives these costs also has inspired infringements on civil liberties that at least some would have thought unthinkable before the attacks.
“The courts have been failing terribly,” law professor Susan N. Herman, the president of the American Civil Liberties Union, told the
New York Times
in 2011. “The Fourth Amendment has been seriously diluted.”
One of the features of the war on terror most salient to this book's subject has been what former attorney general John Ashcroft called “a new paradigm,” which among other things added the “new priority . . . of prevention” of terrorism to the Justice Department's traditional focus on criminal prosecution.
The questions compel themselves.
Why is there no equivalent “war” against gun violence, which takes and shatters the lives of more Americans than does terrorism by many, many times every single year?
Why, when other articles of the Bill of Rightsâsuch as those involving searches, wiretaps, and preventive arrestsâare “balanced” against the fear of terrorism, is the Second Amendment fiercely claimed to be “untouchable” by the gun lobby and by the politicians who hew to its line, and is slavishly protected by activist conservative judges? Why do even many who favor some form of gun control continue to focus on “illegal guns” and the prosecution of criminals instead of adding “a new paradigm” of prevention?
Given the lack of widespread public outcry for a reordering of our national priorities, Americans and their political leaders appear either to be ignorant of, or to have become inured to, the endless torrent of civilian gun violence in the United States. Why?