The American Truth about Terrorism
On June 4th, President Donald Trump of the United States tweeted, “Do you notice we are not having a gun debate right now? That’s because they used knives and a truck!” He references terrorism in London, where 3 men plowed a van into a crowd on London Bridge and then jumped out to attack people with knives. His argument is there is no need for a gun debate because the terrorist did not use guns.
On June 5th, in Orlando, Florida, one shooter armed with a knife and handgun walked into a workplace he had been fired from, where he killed 5 people and turned the gun on himself.
The London terrorists killed 8 people and injured more than 50. The angry gunman picked and chose his victims with his boss and coworkers. A day after the London terrorist attacks, acts of violence committed in the United States that should be considered acts of terrorism; however, they are rarely considered such because the perpetrators are white.
When a shooter opened up on a gay club in Orlando, Florida, it was first defined as a mass shooting. We have normalized this in the U.S. With large shootings like the Pulse Nightclub shooting, Sandy Hook Massacre, Columbine, and Aurora to name a few, the smaller mass shootings go unrecognized. The shooter in the nightclub attack became a terrorist due to his ties to Islam and DASH (ISIS). If he had been a white male, the ideas were to stay on track: he was potentially a gay man who did not want to be gay and thought gays should be punished. Because he identified as Muslim, it turned into a terrorist attack.
There are many aspects to both stories, but I will argue a few:
For the attack that took place in Orlando on June 5th of 2017, the attacker was an Army veteran, who was dishonorably discharged in 1999. An ongoing investigation exists to find if he was suffering from an undiagnosed mental illness. It is obvious that some type of mental health issue exists for anyone to kill, especially mass killings. Something happened before meeting the boiling point and the person acting out in violent and horrific ways.
This is not to say that people who suffer from mental health are likely or will commit more crimes, but it is to say that people who think to do violent acts are more likely to have some sort of mental health issues. As much as we try to avoid thinking of it, the 3 terrorists that attacked London probably suffered from some sort of mental health issues.
While others might claim the terrorist attacks are religious, all religions commit crimes. Someone speaks in the name of religion that does not reflect the religion. In many cultures, males must be the breadwinners and cannot move out of social constructs, such as showing emotion or if mental health issues, to get help. There is no way to show weakness. If mental health problems did play a factor, we may never know because of social constructs. This is another thing that limits a person’s potential.
In the chaos of the aftermath of both of these events, many people look for answers that they may never find. For some, mental health will be the reason. Others will point their finger and question why anyone didn’t know before. We cannot let anger overreach, and we must understand it is only a brick in the wall that created this person and violence.
The next point: President Trump brought this debate on himself. By his tweet (written above), he pushed the argue to the forefront, but no one wanted or thought about what might come next. His argument is that knives and vans kill people too, which is obviously true. The uptake in Europe with the deaths and injuries caused by terrorism with vans and other vehicles show that they are weapons. Knives have played a large part too.
Yet, if President Trump’s argument is that there should no discussion of gun control, then he is sadly mistaken.
In the United Kingdom, they have strict gun laws. Actually, across Europe, they have strong gun control laws. Most citizens do not even question why people would want guns. For farmers and hunters, there is the ability to have guns legally, which include background checks and other steps. I repeat, though: many Europeans have no need or want for guns. In the United States of America, we think differently due to the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Now imagine what London’s most recent terrorist attack might have looked like if the United Kingdom used loose gun laws. Thankfully in the United States, few terrorist attacks involved guns, such as Pulse Nightclub Shooting, Chattanooga Shooting and the San Bernardino Shooting. These shootings had higher casualties than the London attack.
In the United States, we pride ourselves on the second amendment. But, what if guns fell into the hands of terrorists? Well, we have already seen it:
- Christopher Sean Harper-Mercer, who killed 9 and injured 9 in a community college in Oregon;
- Dylann Storm Roof, who killed 9 in a black Church in South Carolina;
- Elliot Rodger, who killed 6 at community college in California;
- Aaron Alexis, who killed 12 people at Washington Navy Yard;
- Andrew Engeldinger, who killed 6 at his old job in Minneapolis;
- Wade Michael Page who killed 6 at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin;
- James Holmes who killed 12 and injured 58 in a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado;
- Adam Lanza, who killed 27 people in the Sandy Hook Massacre, which included 20 children;
- the many others that occurred.
(Harper-Mercer, Roof, Page were white supremacists.)
The United States remains well-versed in acts of violence. However, if done by white male, then it is a mass shooter; “He is not a terrorist.” Around the world, many people looked at the United States as chaos because of this, and if only we called these attacks terrorist attacks, which they are meant to drive terror into many, then the United States may see London differently.
We, Americans, look at the United Kingdom with pity for all the terrorist attacks that have happened over the last three months. We, Americans, look at Europe and shake our heads, not wondering why so many terrorist attacks. Yet, if we looked at ourselves and asked why so many terrorism attacks, what would we see?