San Juan Mountains

San Juan Mountains
San Juan Mountains: Grenadier Range

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Putting Domestic Terrorism Into Perspective

In light of the events in San Bernadino yesterday I decided to dedicate a post to some cold, hard statistical facts about domestic terrorism.  I was watching the news last night to see what each of the major news outlets was reporting and I was not surprised to discover that MSNBC and CNN were touting new gun control laws while Fox News was reporting on the efforts being made to find out who might have been involved in the murders.  One report on CNN got my attention.  A guest stated that the Socialist Democracy of Amerika has experienced more than one mass shooting, defined as an event in which at least four people are killed by other people wielding guns, at a rate of more than one per day so far in 2015.  I wondered to myself, could that possibly be true?  I went to the source of all truth, the internet, to find out.  Here is what I found out.
My first stop was a website maintained by the FBI.  It had a chart that listed the total number of "terrorist incidents" in the SDA for the period from 1980 through 2005.  The chart can be found here.  A terrorist incident, according to the FBI, is not restricted exclusively to acts perpetrated by Arabs but includes all acts of violence designed to incite terror in the populace as well as mass shootings.  One thing that is abundantly clear from the statistics maintained by the FBI is that the incidence of domestic terrorism is considerably lower today than it was in the 1980s.  Has everyone forgotten those days?  I haven't.  And although the data did not go back into the 1970s, I suspected the rate of domestic terrorism then was even higher than it was in the 1980s.  Also note that the FBI only recognizes 318 terrorist incidents for the period shown.  It is hard to square the FBI data with the CNN report, don't you think?

Bar graph showing terrorism incidents in the U.S. from 1980-2005. 318 incidents shown, 1982 highest point and 1994-95 lowest.

Being fair and balanced I then went to the Washington Post for information.  I found an article entitled "Eight facts about terrorism" that was quite eye opening.  In that article were the two graphs shown below.  Figure 1 below shows what I suspected to be true.  The total number of terrorist attacks in the SDA was much higher in the 1970s than any recent time.  With the exception of 9/11, the same is true for the total number of attacks/shootings in which people were killed by terrorism in this country.

Table 1 shows how many people have died as a result of terrorism.  This list takes into account the total number of people killed by terrorist attacks rather than just the incidence of said attacks.  For example, 9/11 was classified as having four terrorist attack incidents although, as we all know, thousands of people were killed.  New York leads the list because of 9/11, Virginia is second because of 9/11 and Oklahoma is third because of the Oklahoma City bombing.  .

As I pondered how many people have been killed in domestic terrorist incidents I wondered just what the odds were of being killed by a terrorist.  Should I be afraid, very afraid, or should I remain my usual calm, cool and collected self?  The graph below answers that question for me. Just how likely am I to be killed by a terrorist when I make my morning donut run?  Not very likely it turns out.  Look at this graph and see for yourself.  The odds of being killed by a terrorist are so small it does not even make the list, coming in lower than my risk of being struck by lightning.

chance of death

According to the article I extracted this graph from, "In the last five years, the odds of an American being killed in a terrorist attack have been about 1 in 20 million (that's including both domestic attacks and overseas attacks). As the chart above from the Economist shows, that's considerably smaller than the risk of dying from many other things, from post-surgery complications to ordinary gun violence to lightning."
That left me with just one more question.  Was the CNN report accurate?  Is the SDA unique in the world with more than one mass shooting a day or was that the incorrect report of a hysterical agenda-pusher?  I found the answer to that question here.  King Obama constantly says that the SDA is unique in that we experience more mass shootings, called "rampage shootings" below, than any other nation in the world.  Not surprisingly, the King is wrong.  Look at the chart.

Screenshot - 6_18_2015 , 9_43_12 PM

When the data are examined dispassionately and on a percentage of the population basis, I discover that I am more likely to be involved in a mass shooting if I live in Norway, Finland, Slovakia, Israel, or Switzerland than I am in the SDA.  I thought those countries were all peaceful.  The Scandinavian countries have the reputation of being extremely safe as well as having highly restrictive gun control laws so how can they possibly have a higher rate of mass shootings than the SDA?  I can't answer that question but it is true that there seems to be no correlation between gun control laws and mass shootings.  I guess if I want to live in the safest country in the world I should move to France, despite the recent events in Paris.
I conclude that most of what I am hearing on the news is nothing more than politically motivated hysteria.  That is hardly worth writing about but I thought some of you might care to have some hard data to base your emotional responses to life events upon. I also conclude that Osama bin Laden was very successful in attaining one of his life goals.  He has successfully turned the citizens of the Socialist Democracy of Amerika into an amorphous mass of terrified sheeple who are looking to their god, the civil government, for protection at any cost.  The cost of that unnecessary protection is steep indeed as our freedoms are tossed away with the wind and the false promises of a police-state to protect us from ever-present terrorists fill the air.

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