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Imagine if London terrorists had guns and Orlando shooter had only knives:
James Alan Fox, Opinion columnist 5:21 p.m. ET June 6, 2017
Trump didn't feel the need to say anything, even in a tweet, about a mass
murder in his own country.
In the pre-dawn hours last Sunday,
President Trump (alias @realDonaldTrump) grabbed his smartphone and tweeted
a response to the recent terrorist attacks in London: "Do you notice we are
not having a gun debate right now? That's because they used knives and a
Not surprisingly, our tweeter-in-chief took a beating in the
court of public opinion, both here and abroad, for his unsympathetic and
politically opportunistic comment on the tragic loss of life. Of course,
Trump no doubt delighted his friends and supporters in the National Rifle
Association who helped put him in the White House to safeguard the Second
Curiously, the president's Twitter feed offers nothing at
all about Monday's mass murder at an Orlando factory at the hands of a
disgruntled ex-employee who had been fired from his job back in April, in
part because of an altercation with a co-worker. That co-worker was one of
the five employees of the Fiamma Inc. facility killed before the 45-year-old
gunman took his own life just as the police were closing in.
that Trump should have felt compelled to write something even 140 characters
about a tragedy in his own country, after having tweeted multiple times
following the events across the Atlantic. His silence isn't for lack of
alone time with his mobile device, as he has been tweeting about some of his
favorite issues, such as tax cuts, his trip to Saudi Arabia and his desire
for a travel ban.
Donald Trump, leader of the GOP (as in Gun Owners'
Party), may not wish to have a debate about guns and mass casualty
incidents, but there are plenty of politicians and pundits who continue to
note the high frequency of mass shootings in the U.S. compared with other
Western nations that do have tight restrictions on firearms.
Five flaws in Trump's crime agenda: James Alan Fox
factory shooter was methodical and selective, as is typical of mass killers,
choosing to target those whom he blamed for his misfortune and purposely
excusing others. He ordered one woman, a new temporary employee, to leave
Part of the assailant's planning process involved what
weapons of mass murder destruction he would need to execute his final act of
revenge. As an Army veteran, he was comfortable with his semi-automatic
handgun, but he also brought along multiple knives for his early morning
If only the Orlando gunman had attacked his victims only
with the knives and not had access to a more deadly option. In all
likelihood, the death toll would have been much lower, perhaps even zero.
The headline, one that probably wouldn't have gone national, might then have
read, "Knife wielding man disarmed by employees." It is, of course,
difficult to kill multiple victims with a knife, unless they are asleep or
Whereas 64% of (non-arson) homicides in the
U.S. since 2000 involved a gun, 77% of multiple victim incidents were
committed with a firearm. Conversely, 16% of the homicides involved a knife,
yet only 10% of multiple victim incidents were carried out with a knife.
By sharp contrast (no pun intended), consider the statistics in the
country that suffered the recent terrorist attack about which Trump remarked
on the matter of guns versus knives. Of all murder victims in England and
Wales between April 2004 and March 2015, 37% were stabbed to death while
only 7% suffered fatal gunshot wounds.
Although of no consolation to
the families of the seven people killed in the recent London attacks, it is
fortunate that the perpetrators used knives and that the truck employed as a
battering ram wasn't filled with an arsenal of guns and ammo. Then, Mr.
President, the debate about the role of guns in mass casualty attacks would
have been as lively and relevant in the U.K. as it is here in the U.S.
James Alan Fox is the Lipman
Professor of Criminology, Law and Public Policy at Northeastern University
and a member of the USA TODAY Board of Contributors. He is co-author of
Extreme Killing: Understanding Serial and Mass Murder. Follow him on