John A. Tures: Domestic terrorism

jtures@lagrange.eduDecember 22, 2012 

Larry Bond was Tom Clancy's collaborator on the classic fiction story "Red Storm Rising" from the early 1980s, which speculated about what a future war with the Soviet Union would look like. In the 1990s, before 9/11, Bond wrote the book "The Enemy Within," which speculated on how terrorists would go after America.

This novel got a lot of attention from my co-workers in Washington. Rather than attack our military bases and installations, they had their operatives go after our schools, our shopping malls, places of entertainment, and spots with plenty of civilian targets. The goal was to have our parents keep kids from schools, wreck our economy by having people stay away from shopping and going out. The terrorists aimed to destroy our American way of life.

Isn't that what these few nutcases with guns doing to us? It is domestic terrorism, only more effective than most of whatever al-Qaeda has been able to accomplish since 9/11.

After the Connecticut school shooting, President Obama said now was not the time to have such a conversation. That's what he said after the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado.

I happen to disagree. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper is right. Now is the time. We've had three spree shootings since Thanksgiving alone.

But we need to face facts. According to columnist Walter Shapiro, we have almost as many gun dealers as gas stations. The FBI ran 17 million gun background checks last year alone. A Yahoo News story estimated that there are 88.8 guns per 100 people (some obviously own multiple weapons, like the mother of the Connecticut shooter). Thanks to conspiracy theories, most of those folks really won't give up those guns for twice the value, or three times the price.

This problem isn't going to be fixed by quick "solutions" like arming all teachers, having lots of movie patrons with guns, or have trunks with weapons. These shooters are wearing body armor. So we either have to wear that stuff everywhere, or load up on armor-piercing bullets. Besides, in a school, you're likely to have students try to swipe the gun, or have some sort of an accident. It can happen, even with our former vice president.

We could pass a "Stand Your Ground" law in every state. But new research of mine on the least safe states (as measured by the Wall Street Journal) found that the seven of these 10 most unsafe states had previously passed a Stand Your Ground law. And lest you think this is a racial thing, the Freakonomics team cited research showing white-on-white killings are up in Stand Your Ground states, while black-on-black and interracial shootings are unchanged. When your neighbor tells you to town down the music or your party, you better do so, even if it infringes on your freedom.

Even the American notion of "private property" has gone away, as some gun owners have had their rights to tote a weapon trump the right of someone to say what happens in a business or parking lot.

Luckily, we have lots of sane, rational Americans who own guns and look out for their community. I've had them in each place I've lived. We need to reach out to them for ideas and solutions, rather than alienate them. Otherwise, we'll continue to endure such deaths and wonder why nothing gets done.

John A. Tures, associate professor of political science at LaGrange College; jtures@lagrange.edu.

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