Addressing the nation Thursday in the aftermath of another mass shooting in America, a visibly frustrated President Barack Obama contrasted the federal efforts to combat terrorism with the lack of action on senseless gun violence.
"We spend over 1 trillion dollars and pass countless laws and devote entire agencies to preventing terrorist attacks on our soil, and rightfully so," Obama said after the deadly attack at Umpqua Community College. "And yet we have a Congress that explicitly blocks us from collecting data on how we could potentially reduce gun deaths. How can that be?"
The shooting rampage on the community college campus in Roseburg left at least 10 people dead, including the shooter.
"I would ask news organizations — because I won't put these facts forward — have news organizations tally up the number of Americans who have been killed in terrorist attacks in last decade and the number of Americans who've been killed by gun violence," Obama said Thursday night. "And post those side by side on your news reports. This won't be information coming from me. It will be coming from you."
Well, here are the numbers, and they're pretty stark:
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 153,144 people were killed by homicide in which firearms were used between 2001 and 2013, the last year that data are available (that number excludes deaths by "legal intervention").
- The Global Terrorism Database — which uses a criteria to determine terrorist attacks but also includes acts of violence that are more ambiguous in goal — estimates that 3,046 people in the U.S. died in terrorist or possible terrorist attacks between 2001 and 2014.
The top number doesn't even include suicides and legal police killings (which boost the number to 394,912). Still, just counting homicides alone, 11,780 Americans were killed by guns a year on average, in that time period, while 219 on average were per year killed by terrorism — although of course the 9/11 attacks are the bulk of the deaths.
"When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work to make mines safer," the president noted. "When Americans are killed in floods and hurricanes, we make communities safer. When roads are unsafe, we fix them, to reduce auto fatalities. We have seat-belt laws because we know it saves lives.
"The notion that gun violence is somehow different — that our freedom and our Constitution prohibits any modest regulation of how we use a deadly weapon when there are law-abiding gun owners all across the country who could hunt and do everything they do under such regulations — it doesn't make sense."