The Greatest Threat to America Isn’t Terrorism

In the early morning hours of Nov. 19, 2015, Peter Gold, a 25-year-old Tulane medical school student, was driving down Magazine Street in New Orleans when he noticed a man dragging a semi-conscious woman down the sidewalk and toward a parked car. Gold pulled over and attempted to intervene, and the man, now identified as 21-year-old Euric Cane, shot him in the abdomen. Gold collapsed onto pavement, and Cane then raised the gun, pointed it at Gold’s head, and pulled the trigger. The gun jammed. Cane tried again, and again, it jammed. Cane then bolted, leaving the medical student writhing in pain and waiting for someone to rescue him. The entire terrifying encounter was captured by a nearby security camera.

Yesterday, after more than a week in the hospital, Gold was finally released. He survived and so too did the woman he rescued.

If you had turned on television that day in New Orleans, you would have heard about Peter Gold’s heroics and his brush with death during the local news. Then, during the commercial break, you would have likely encountered an ad by gubernatorial candidate and U.S. Senator David Vitter arguing that his opponent John Bel Edwards supported President Obama’s “dangerous” plan to allow Syrian refugees to immigrate into the United States. Syrian refugees, Vitter argued, represented an existential crisis for national security, and neither the President nor Edwards were willing to take the threat seriously.

This may have been the last, dying gasps of a doomed campaign. The overwhelming majority of Syrian refugees in America are children, women, and the elderly; only 2% are single, military-aged men, and all told, only 14 Syrian refugees had immigrated to Louisiana. Vitter tried to get traction on this issue, but it didn’t work. Two days after Peter Gold was shot and nearly murdered, point-blank, on Magazine Street, David Vitter lost the governor’s race by more than 12 points.

That was on a Saturday. The next day in New Orleans, 17 people were injured at a shooting at Bunny Friend Park, 10 of whom were under the age of 21.

These crimes in New Orleans have nothing to do with Syrian refugees; they are not motivated by ISIS or al-Qaeda or inspired by events overseas. They aren’t about religion. And they are so commonplace now, they barely get noticed by anyone outside of places like New Orleans, where gun violence has become all too common.

Last Friday, a domestic terrorist walked into a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado and killed a police officer, an Iraqi War veteran, and a stay-at-home mother. Yesterday, in California, 14 people were murdered and 17 others were injured after two deranged people opened fire inside of the Inland Regional Center in San Bernadino. I reacted to yesterday’s mass shooting on my Facebook, and my pithy observation has already received at least 73 shares and several hundred comments on multiple threads. Here’s what I wrote:

Let there be no doubt: The greatest threat to America are not the women, the children, or the elderly refugees from Syria who are simply seeking to escape a war zone. The greatest threat are those Americans among us who believe that the Second Amendment is more sacred than human lives.

When you blindly worship guns like we do in the United States, you encourage a culture of violence. Gun violence becomes commonplace and culturally acceptable. We have deluded ourselves into thinking that this is merely the “price we pay for freedom.” But there is no freedom in a country in which you are at risk of being murdered in places we once believed to be safe. 

We have had 355 mass shootings this year, more than one a day. In a very real way, Syrian refugees are moving from one war zone to another.

Notably, I never said I oppose the Second Amendment. I was born and raised in Central Louisiana, at the heart of Sportsman’s Paradise. America enshrined the right to own guns near the very top of the Bill of Rights. But that right does not have to be understood to be fundamental: If you’re a murderer recently released from prison, you can’t show up at your local Wal-Mart and buy an assault rifle.

I’ve always found it fascinating that the Second Amendment, unlike any other, contains the term “well-regulated.” Sure, the framers were describing organized militias, but the United States no longer applies the Second Amendment in that context. In Justice Stevens’s dissent in D.C. v. Heller, he writes:

The Second Amendment was adopted to protect the right of the people of each of the several States to maintain a well-regulated militia. It was a response to concerns raised during the ratification of the Constitution that the power of Congress to disarm the state militias and create a national standing army posed an intolerable threat to the sovereignty of the several States. Neither the text of the Amendment nor the arguments advanced by its proponents evidenced the slightest interest in limiting any legislature’s authority to regulate private civilian uses of firearms. Specifically, there is no indication that the Framers of the Amendment intended to enshrine the common-law right of self-defense in the Constitution.

Stevens’s opinion in this case is the most sensible and accurate and persuasive.

We cannot solve all of these problems overnight, but there are solutions worth considering:

  1. A federal database tracking the purchases of all weapons and ammunition.
  2. Banning certain types of assault weapons intended exclusively for military combat from civilian markets.Join the friggin military if you care that much.
  3. Banning direct private-to-private gun sales. Install third-party auditor and notary.
  4. Requiring serial numbers on all guns and ammunition and a 150% sales tax on guns and ammunition.
  5. 300% increase on sales taxes on high-powered but not military-grade weapons.
  6. Implementing a massive buy-back program (i.e. $100 at Costco for every gun donated; only applies to non-refundable children’s gifts and clothing).
  7. One month wait periods between point of purchase and delivery.
  8. Requiring that certain guns and weapons necessitate professional certification in training and ensuring that the uncertified use will result in potential criminal and civil charges, including fines and jail time.
  9. Identification cards for guns (not merely a hunting license).
  10. Reasonable limits on stockpiles.

None of this should be considered remotely controversial. But I know it is.