America is under attack. Despite spending $636 billion dollars on homeland security since 9/11, $1 trillion to battle Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and another $1.7 trillion to fight in Iraq, we are embroiled in a war that claims a life every 16 minutes in cities, towns and suburbs across the country. This armed struggle does not involve regular or special operation forces. There are no CIA officers cultivating human assets to secure intelligence about planned or impending actions. And yet more lives have been claimed during the last four years of this conflict than the combined number of US casualties in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The victims of this war, like those in the recent Paris attacks, are ordinary people simply going about their daily lives. The battlefront exists in places like fast food restaurants and shopping malls, elementary schools and college campuses, Planned Parenthood clinics and movie theatres.
Americans are killing one another at an alarming rate. Sadly, those who object to Syrian refugees entering the country in the wake of the Paris violence, even though Syrians were not involved in planning or executing those horrific attacks, and want to wage a perpetual war against ISIS, Al Qaeda and their affiliates around the world, stand idly by as the carnage in our communities continues unabated.
Despite a public relations campaign to discredit the data, a recent Harvard study reconfirmed an old statistic that 40% of firearms are purchased in the US without a thorough background check. And the gun lobby resists any legislation that would impose a mandatory background check for anyone purchasing a gun. And what is simply astonishing and terrifying, a General Accounting Office report noted that between 2004-14, more than 2,000 people on the FBI’s terrorist watch list, about one in thirty-five, purchased firearms. While convicted felons are prevented from obtaining a gun, those on the FBI’s terrorist watch list can legally purchase them. Furthermore, the NRA has opposed legislation preventing such individuals from buying weapons.
If the gun violence in our country was perpetrated by Muslim extremists, we could imagine the unanimous bipartisan support to use overwhelming force to eradicate the problem. But as the “enemy” involves American citizens wielding handguns and assault weapons, any attempt to introduce effective gun control legislation gets framed as a civil liberties issue, as a threat to our constitutional right to bear arms rather than as an effective measure in a de facto war on terror. So a considerable majority in Congress blocks every effort to reduce the senseless slaughter of American lives on American soil.
After losing the lives of thousands of brave soldiers and spending trillions to address national security threats from abroad, we have become hostage to an extremist gun lobby that prevents feckless politicians from reducing the dire threat to Americans here at home. While we sanction a tenacious war against foreign terrorists, we remain stubbornly passive about waging one against acts of terror committed every day in our homeland. To our great national shame, it is a war that will continue to claim innocent Americans. It is a war on terrorism we should be fighting.
Neal Aponte, Ph.D.
Editor of Delano