This story needs to start with Trump’s triumphant tweet following his campaign-style speech at the National Rifle Association (NRA) event in Dallas, telling the cheering crowd that he’s fighting for the Second Amendment:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 4, 2018
Do watch the video embedded in his tweet.
Then watch this second video with highlights of his NRA speech put up by the UK Guardian – being British, presumably it can’t be labeled either “fake news” or “failed” (like the New York Times). And it’s a video, you can’t fake Trump’s gestures or his gleeful recounting of stabbings in London and bloodied hospital floors.
Why talk about stabbings? Because guns are banned in the UK, they have knives! Likewise, with the same specious logic, he suggests that if we are to ban guns, we should also ban vans and cars because terrorists use them to mow down pedestrians. Therefore, they are more dangerous than guns!
This is a clever counter-argument that shifts the onus of responsibility on the killers themselves and the act of killing. As if the type of weapon (guns) used to kill played no role – an argument that conveniently overlooks the lethality of guns. And downplays the statistics worldwide that show that in countries that ban guns, mass killings are rare and the overall homicide numbers go down.
That is the case of Europe and Japan, terrorist attacks notwithstanding. And Australia is the poster child of how enormously positive gun control legislation can be. People just handed over 51,000 illegal firearms, including semi-automatic and other military-style weapons, as part of the amnesty policy the legislation put in place. And for the next 22 years, Australia had no more mass killings, none.
But that kind of data is something Trump and his NRA-supporting fans systematically ignore. Fake news!
There is something else the UK Guardian video doesn’t show, no doubt due to lack of space, so they only relaid what related most directly to their British audience, the London story. I am speaking of the stunning hand mimicking and noises Trump used to describe the killings at the Bataclan massacre in Paris that made 130 victims. That’s something the Huffington Post noted in an article, with a graphic headline: Trump Describes Paris Attack: ‘Boom…Boom…Boom’:
Shooting from the “opposite direction”, is that the way to stop mass killings? Let’s take a moment to deconstruct Trump’s argument.
First, there are multiple times more mass killings and victims in the US than in France. On average, France has around 1,800 deaths from firearms annually compared to over 36,000 in the US. Even considering that the US has five times the population of France, proportionately the US figure is still considerably bigger, about three times as large.
This is confirmed by the Wikipedia list of number of gun deaths per 100,000 of population: France sits at 2.83 while the US towers at 11.96 , only topped by notoriously dangerous countries like Venezuela, Honduras, El Salvador, Panama, Jamaica, Swaziland. One could argue the data is not up to date or strictly comparable, but it does provide a general, credible picture that more recent work on the question confirms.
It is true that France has a problem with gun deaths, but the cause is fundamentally different: the firearms used by killers in French terrorist attacks are illegally obtained; in US mass killings, they are legally obtained. And that’s a big difference.
Second, since the United States, unlike France, are full of people carrying guns, there should be many instances of mass killings stopped that way, with some courageous soul rising among the victims, gun in hand and shooting down the killer. Such instances, even in the United States, are exceedingly rare. Many cases are at best ambiguous because, even if the killer is successfully gunned down by a gun-toting civilian – and not the police as is usually the case – this does not happen before there are many victims already lying on the ground.
That’s the normal dynamic of mass killings. They happen whenever they are least expected: in schools, at festive gatherings (open-air concerts, weddings, meetings). Killers take advantage of the element of surprise and do their killing quickly, before anyone can react, regardless of whether they carry a gun or not. The problem is not with the victims that don’t have arms to defend themselves; the problem is with the killers that are armed to the teeth and move fast. That is why making access to guns legal and easy does make a difference in terms of public safety.
In short, no advanced democracy similar to the US is anywhere near the US total of deaths by firearms for the simple reason that, in the US, owning a gun is legal. In his NRA speech, Trump simply dusted off the old story that circulated among conservatives after the Paris attacks but the NRA organizers were not so foolish and took no chances: They banned guns at the NRA event in Dallas. Nobody in that vast arena carried guns, presumably with the exception of POTUS bodyguards and NRA’s own security detail.
But, in some ways, what is most shocking about this video is Trump’s mimicry of the Paris shooting. He seems to actually enjoy the telling of it, gesturing with glee “boom…come over here…boom”. The man has no sensitivity, no respect for human life, no morals. He concludes his NRA speech with a chilling sentence: “Being weak gets you a nuclear war”.
This is the crux of the matter: His trust in brute force. It reflects exactly Trump’s state of mind. His agenda as POTUS. He really believes that: To win, you need to be a bully. Scare people and hit them too, shooting with your gun. Or detonating a nuclear bomb.
This is a very dangerous man. And he’s loose on the world. Be warned: Your peace and security are at risk.