Today’s horrendous news that a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut killed at least 27 people, as many as 18 of them children, brings to eight the number of mass killings in the United States just this year.
One report said a Glock and a Sig Sauer 9 mm handgun were reportedly wielded by the 20-year-old shooter, who was dressed in combat garb and a military vest.
Just three days ago, on December 11, two events occurring on opposite sides of the country illustrate the kind of nation we have become.
The FBI arrested two US citizens, Mohammad Abdul Rahman Abukhdair and Randy (aka Rasheed) Wilson, one at the Atlanta airport and the other at an Augusta, Georgia bus stop. They were charged with conspiring “to kill persons or damage property outside the United States.”
Damage property outside the US?
They allegedly told an undercover FBI source that they wanted to “wage violent jihad” in Morocco or Mauritania.
According to the FBI, the arrest of these men by its Joint Terrorist Task Force demonstrates “our resolve to protect our family, friends, neighbors, and community.”
But what about taking steps to protect communities by seriously addressing the epidemic of gun violence within the US?
Also on December 11, while the FBI was announcing that it had bagged more terrorist suspects, a young American without a Muslim-sounding name damaged property and took lives here in the ‘homeland.’
Wearing a military-style vest and camouflage pants and carrying a semi-automatic weapon, Jacob Tyler Roberts entered an Oregon mall and opened fire, killing two people and wounding another before his gun jammed.
Yes, there is a major threat to public safety in this country. But it is not being caused by the kind of “extremists” that featured in the FBI press release on the day Jacob Tyler Roberts went on his shooting spree.
If you are having trouble keeping track of the mass shootings (not to be confused with serial killings, murder/suicide and plain old homicide), check out Mother Jones magazine. In an article first published in July 2012 and updated in late September, it reports that there have been 61 mass murders in 30 states since 1982 – that’s about 2 every year. Most of the killers (43) were white males. Only one was a woman. The vast majority obtained their weapons legally.
Let’s look at the numbers since 9/11.
In 2003 there was a racially motivated killing spree targeting African Americans in a Lockheed Martin plant in Meridian, Mississippi, which left 15 people killed and injured.
In 2004, 12 people were gunned down and either killed or injured at a concert in Columbus, Ohio by an ex Marine using a 9mm Beretta semiautomatic handgun. His mother said he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.
In 2005, 11 people were killed or injured while they attended a Living Church of God meeting in Brookfield, Wisconsin. Less than two weeks later, a 16-year-old killed and injured 15 family members and students at Red Lake Senior High in Minnesota.
In 2006, there were three massacres resulting in 29 people being killed and injured – in Goleta, California, in Seattle, Washington and in an Amish community in Pennsylvania.
The next year, 2007, the casualty rate rose to 86, with four mass killings – in Utah, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Blacksburg, Virginia.
In 2008 ‘only’ 42 were killed and injured in three mass killings (Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky).
That downward trajectory was reversed the following year when the Fort Hood attack by a “Muslim extremist” (Nidal Malik Hasan) was among the four other mass killings of 2009, with a total of 70 killed and injured.
In 2010 there was just one mass murder (Manchester, Connecticut), with 11 killed and injured.
The number of attacks rose to 3 in 2011, the year Jared Loughner wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in an Arizona spree that snuffed out or damaged 19 lives and is sometimes called a terrorist act – when it is not being called the act of a madman. The two other attacks that year – in Nevada and Seal Beach, California – brought the casualty total to 40.
And here we are in 2012, with no fewer than seven mass murders occurring before the gunning down of school children in Connecticut. At least one of them should be classified as “terrorism” as the government uses the term – the attack on the Sikh temple in Milwaukee by a white supremacist US Army veteran, Wade Michael Page, which killed and wounded 10. The total of casualties for the year was 110, with James Holmes doing the most damage (70 killed and wounded) when he shot up the Aurora Theater in Colorado.
As terrifying as these atrocities may be, this is not the sort of “terrorism” that interests the FBI or the local law enforcement it has deputized in its JTTFs. You can read here how it wants to spend the $8.2 billion it has requested for FY 2013.
No doubt the DHS thinks it is doing something to address the epidemic of murder-with-guns by allowing some of the $35 billion that it has given to the states in grants to be used to militarize the police.