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Date & time Aug 13
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James Holmes and the violent epidemic we still won

This piece originally appeared on TomDispatch.

Consider this paragraph a holding action on the subject of getting blown away in America. While I write this dispatch, I'm waiting patiently for the next set of dispiriting killings in this country. And I have faith. Before I'm done, some angry or simply mentally disturbed and well armed American "lone wolf" (or lone wolves) will gun down someone (or a number of people) somewhere and possibly himself (or themselves) as well. Count on that. It'll be my last paragraph. Think of it as, in a grim way, something to look forward to as you read this piece on American armed mayhem.

National security officials and politicians have been pounding home the message that the "greatest threat" to Americans is an extreme and brutal jihadist movement thousands of miles away and the videos and social media messages its followers produce that make it seem close at hand. With that in mind, let's take a look at a few of the dangers of armed life in these United States, a quick survey of national insecurity in a country armed to the teeth.

I'm sure you won't be surprised to learn that, in the first half of 2015, there's been a plethora of incidents to draw on. There's the killer still on the loose in northern Colorado whoshot atpeople in cars or out biking or walking late at night. There's the suspectedserial killerwhodumpedseven bodies behind a strip mall in New Britain, Connecticut, and may now be in jail on unrelated charges. There's the ongoing trial ofJames Holmeswho blew away 12 moviegoers and wounded 70 in a multiplex in Aurora, Colorado, in 2012. There was themass killingof seven people in February in the tiny town of Tyrone, Missouri, by Joseph Aldridge, an armed recluse who then killed himself. And don't forgetSudheer Khamitkar, who shot to death his wife and two young sons and then himself in Tulsa in April, orChristopher Carrillo, who murdered four of his family members and then turned his gun on himself in a Tucson home in May. Andmany others.

In such a list, there should be a special place for a phenomenon that, though largely untabulated, has been gaining attention in recent years as ever more Americans "carry" inever more places. This means ever more loose guns lying around. I'm talking about the mayhem committed by toddlers (or perhaps they should be thought of as Americanlone wolf cubs). Toddler shootings range from the two year old who killed his mother in a Walmart in Idaho with the gun she waspacking in her purseas 2014 ended to the three year old whodiscovered a gunin a purse in an Albuquerque motel room in February and wounded his father and pregnant mother with a single shot. Such a list for this year would have to include the Florida two year old whofoundhis father's gun in the family car and killed himself with it in January, the three year old whopicked upan unattended gun and killed a one year old in a Cleveland home in April, the Virginia two year old whofound a gunon top of a dresser and killed himself in late May, and the four year old who, at about the same time in Sioux Falls, South Dakota,fake rolex oyster perpetual day date,picked up a shotgunat a target shooting range and killed his 22 year old uncle.

The Big Leagues of Violence

While we're at it (before we get to the really big stuff), there is the crew I think of as American style suicide killers. They lack a political or religious ideology like the suicide bombers of the Middle East, but they are on missions for which killing yourself as well as others is the imagined end. Think of them as informal American jihadis, in touch with no ISIS social media types, watching no inflammatory terror videos, but all riled up anyway, often deeply disturbed, armed, and on suicide missions in the American homeland.

I'm referring to a remarkably commonplace kind of killing that, as far as I know, no one has taken the time to record or count up: men who kill their girlfriends or wives (and sometimes others in the vicinity) and then take their own lives. Here's an almost random list of just some of the reported cases I stumbled across for 2015: In January, in the appropriately named Nutley, New Jersey, a 38 year old manshothis 37 year old girlfriend and then killed himself; in January, in Lincoln,imitation rolex date just, Nebraska, a 49 year old manshothis 44 year old girlfriend, called the police to report the killing, and then killed himself; also in January, a 29 year old manshothis 27 year old pregnant girlfriend six or seven times in a hotel for the homeless in New York City's Times Square before taking his own life; in February, in Wading River, New York, a 44 year old manshotand killed his 43 year old girlfriend and her 17 year old daughter before taking his own life; in March, in Chicago, a 23 year old manshotand killed his 24 year old girlfriend, then himself in the mouth, committing suicide; in April, a 48 year old Fort Worth man, who had a winning $500 lottery ticket and refused to share the spoils with his 46 year old girlfriend,shother and then himself after they argued, then called the police to report the crime before dying; in April, in Cleveland, a 48 year old manshotand killed his 19 year old girlfriend and then repeated the act two doors down, murdering his 47 year old ex wife, before turning his gun on himself; also in April in Montgomery, Alabama, a manshotand killed his girlfriend, subsequently killing himself; similarly in April, a 35 year old doctorshotand killed his 39 year old girlfriend in Fayetteville, North Carolina, followed by a 32 year old doctor in New Jersey, and then, when police approached him, committed suicide; in May, in San Diego, a 52 year old manshothis 28 year old girlfriend and her 63 year old mother to death before committing suicide. As June began, in Cleveland, a 30 year old manshotand killed his 24 year old ex girlfriend and her grandfather, badly injuring her grandmother, then killed himself. And so it goes, and mind you, this is just a starter list for such acts, which seem remarkably commonplace.

Moving on to bigger things, one kind of killing has been much in the news of late: police shootings. The figures the FBI has traditionally compiled on them have proven to be way too low, so others have entered the fray. in 2015 (deathsby Tasernot included). Their figure so far:at least 385for the first five months of 2015 or approximatelyone of every 13non suicide gun deaths so far this year.

"About half the victims," thePostreports, "were white, half minority. But the demographics shifted sharply among the unarmed victims, two thirds of whom were black or Hispanic. Overall, blacks were killed at three times the rate of whites or other minorities when adjusting by the population of the census tracts where the shootings occurred." AGuardianstudyadds this detail: "Black Americans are more than twice as likely to be unarmed when killed during encounters with police as white people."

According totheGuardian, a recent Bureau of Justice report found that over the last eight years an average of 928 Americans have died annually at the hands of the police. (FBI figures: only 383.) In other words in those years, there were 7,427 police homicides, the equivalent of more than two 9/11s. Compared to other developed countries, these figures are staggering. There were, for instance,more fatal police shootingsin the United States in the month of March 2015 (97) than Australia had between 1992 and 2011 (94). Similarly, there have been almost three times as many police shootings in California alone in 2015 (72) as Canada experiences annually (25).

And when it comes to armed dangers in a country in which there are estimated to be between 270 and 310 million guns or, on average,nearly one firearmfor every man, woman, and child, we haven't even made it to the major leagues of death yet. Take, for instance, suicide by gun. In the last year for which we have figures, 2013, there were21,175suchdeathsand they seem to be rising. Deaths by firearm in this country totaled33,636in that year and seem to be rising as well.

And just for the heck of it, maybe we should throw in one other kind of weapon (even if it generally lacks the intentionality of firearms): cars, trucks, and other vehicles. Many traffic deaths could certainly qualify as assaults, however unintentional, with a deadly weapon. In 2013, there were32,719such deaths, essentially equaling death by gun in America.

In all, then, we're talking about approximately 66,000 death dealing assaults with weapons or vehicles in this country yearly.

Armed Dangers and Meal Tickets

Now, let's leave those annual fields of carnage behind and turn to the "greatest threat" of our moment or so the officials of the national security state would have you believe. You know what that is, of course: the Islamic State with its sophisticated propaganda skills that, according to official Washington, regularlyrun circlesaround whatever this country and its allies can muster in response. Despite the nearlytrillion dollarsa year that goes into national security and the elaboratesurveillanceand monitoring systems that have been put in place, we remain strangely defenseless against its wiles. in terms of death and destruction: In May, evidently affected by ISIS's social media presence,Elton Simpsonand Nadir Soofi, two young American Muslims from Phoenix who were roommates,set outto attack a cartoon exhibit and contest in Garland, Texas, devoted to the Prophet Muhammad and organized by IslamophobePam Geller. Armed with assault rifles and wearing body armor, they managed to wound an unarmed security guard in the ankle before they were killed by an off duty traffic officer, also working security at the event.

Similarly, this month a 26 year old black Muslim, Usaamah Rahim, was reportedly involved in an ISIS inspired plot in Boston to somehowbehead Geller. He then supposedly abandoned that plan, deciding instead to behead some local "boys in blue." Approached on the street for questioning by Boston police and FBI agents in plain clothes, he pulled out a "military style knife,rolex oyster date imitation," they claimed, threatened them, and was shot to death. (Some aspects of their account have beenquestioned.) And that's it, folks. The greatest threat on the planet has, so far this year, managed to inspire three marginal young men to get themselves killed. When it comes to the dangers in American life, put that in the context of tens of thousands of annual deaths by firearm,rolex oyster perpetual day date replica, or even of the toddler killings.

Despite allthe talkof possible jihadist plots, this is the evidence we have of the threat to the "homeland" which the Islamic State represents at the moment and into which so much money and preventive activity flows (to the exclusion of so much else). It is, we are told, a "new threat," utterly unlike the normal dangers of our American world. In fact, such violence, rare as it may be, shouldn't seem aberrational at all. It really should strike us as more of the same even if the names of the perpetrators sometimes have a different ring to them: men, often young, with access to weapons, in some cases mentally unstable, and with a grudge, intent on striking out. They should remind us of those American men who so regularly kill their girlfriends and then themselves or of many of themass killersofrecent years.

Yet this is the lone danger that is constantly played up as the one worthy of both fear and investment. Of course, jihadist terror is perfectly real and if Americans lived in Syria or Iraq or Libya it would be a horrifying problem. But whatever the present skills of ISIS's propagandists, such violence has, since 9/11, proven more dangerous thanshark attacks, but not much else in American life. And when law enforcement agencies are surveyed,according toCharles Kurzman and David Schanzer, they, too, see the dangers of Islamist terrorism as modest indeed in this country, particularly in comparison to the homegrown far right wing version of the same.

It matters that we are still protected by two oceans and that the Islamic jihadist heartlands are distant indeed. But let's be honest: the threat of Islamic terrorism here is also a meal ticket for the national security state. (Henceall those plotsthat turn out to be essentially instigated, funded, often essentially organized by FBIinformersand then "cracked" by the FBI.) It's one major way that the officials of that state within a state ensure support and funding, endow themselves with special privileges, including never having to appear incourtfor potential criminal acts, and entrench their anti democraticmethodsand the blanket of secrecy that goes with them ever more deeply in American life.

As for the real armed dangers in our world, nobody's likely to put much money into protecting you from them and, despite those 66,000 deaths a year, somehow the world continues to spin and the end is not nigh.

By the way, you do have one thing coming to you, don't you? I promised you a last paragraph. So here goes.

In the week plus since I first began writing this piece, there was indeed one Islamic State attack in the United States. A twenty one year old manlungedat an FBI agent searching his home in Staten Island, New York, with large kitchen knife. There was also a mass killing. A twenty one year oldwhite racistwalked into a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, andopened firein what, if he had been Muslim, would have been called aterror attack, killing nine, including the church pastor who was also a state senator. As Reutersreported, the massacre the 1963 bombing of an African American church in Birmingham, Alabama, that killed four girls and galvanized the civil rights movement of the 1960s. was as well at least one more grim toddler shooting. A Cincinnati three year oldfoundhis mother's gun in her purse, shot himself in the chest, and died. There was also at least one more fellow on a suicide mission: a Vermont man sought by the police in the killing of his ex girlfriend engaged in a high speed car chase before crashing andcommittingsuicide by gun. There were a number of police homicides, including: a man on probation in a Hacienda Inn inSouth Lake Tahoe; a 28 year old man in a high speed car chase inStockton, California; a 28 year old man, unarmed but erratically, inDes Moines, Iowa; a man who stabbed a policeman trying to arrest him inBrighton Beach, New York; and a mantentatively identifiedas African in Louisville, Kentucky, accused of violently threatening the police with a flag pole (with the usual conflicting stories from police and eyewitnesses about what actually happened). And in the smorgasbord that is America's cavalcade of violence, we shouldn't leave out the off duty Neptune, New Jersey, police sergeant whochasedhis ex wife in his car, caught up with her, and shot her to death in front of their seven year old daughter before threatening to kill himself and being arrested by the police; or the Iowa City mall security guard, evidently fired from his job earlier that day, who went home, got a weapon, returned, andkilleda 20 year old female employee of the mall's children's museum whom he had previously been harassing. He fled, but was arrested by the police soon after. Miraculously, he managed to kill no one, despite also crashing his van into several police cars, and was finally killed by a police sniper. And last but hardly least, some gunfire hit closer to home. Three young men in Brooklyn, New York, wereshot and woundedin a housing project playground complex (named after a neighborhood 13 year old who had beenkilledby a policeman in 1994). Someone I know gives classes in that complex. The shooter remains on the loose.

The Wall

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