Writing for the Guardian, and re-posted at AlterNet, Henry Porter makes the case that the scale of gun violence in America renders it, in effect, a civil war. Figures, especially if they’re staggering, can render us none. But the way Porter has framed the number of gun fatalities in the United States can’t help but shock and move. He writes:
… it’s worth trying to guess the death toll of all the wars in American history since the War of Independence began in 1775, and follow that by estimating the number killed by firearms in the US since the day that Robert F. Kennedy was shot in 1968 by a .22 Iver-Johnson handgun, wielded by Sirhan Sirhan.
See what Porter is doing? He’s about to compare 238 years to 45 years.
The figures from Congressional Research Service, plus recent statistics from icasualties.org, tell us that from the first casualties in the battle of Lexington to recent operations in Afghanistan, the toll is 1,171,177. By contrast, the number killed by firearms, including suicides, since 1968, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the FBI, is 1,384,171.
I don’t know about you, but those statistics left my mind reeling. Here’s how Porter, as an overseas observer, views the situation (emphasis added).
But what if we no longer thought of this as just a problem for America and, instead, viewed it as an international humanitarian crisis – a quasi civil war, if you like, that calls for outside intervention? As citizens of the world, perhaps we should demand an end to the unimaginable suffering of victims and their families – the maiming and killing of children – just as America does in every new civil conflict around the globe.
Porter turns the tables on a country that long had pretensions to being the conscience of the world – and one which, in the aftermath of World War, effectively served that role. Whoever thinks of the United States as a nation in need of outside, humanitarian intervention? Of course, our decades of gun violence does not technically constitute a civil war because it’s seldom forces that are killing each other, but individuals without a larger agenda. Nor is it technically genocide because it’s not ethnic cleansing. But the number of fatalities surpass that of some civil wars and systematic exterminations.