The Boston Marathon bombings rekindled fears that Americans felt more than a decade ago in the aftermath of September 11th. Fears that radical Islam had once again converted moderates into fanatics. Fears that two men flying from Boston to Chicago shortly after the bombings would cause even more mayhem; the flight returned to its gate and the men escorted off the plane. Fears that law enforcement was not–is not–doing enough to racially profile Muslims and to infiltrate their community.
My fear is that we are again losing our moral compass. In the last two weeks we witnessed an undeniably evil plot to kill innocent lives. Yet in the last few months we have seen far worse. On December 14, 2012 we witnessed more than twenty children lose their lives. Since December 14, 2012 until now, we have witnessed more than 3,700 people in this country lose their lives to unchecked gun violence. That is approximately 23% more than the number of people who died in the September 11th attacks.
It should be abundantly clear that the Tsarnaev brothers have more in common with Adam Lanza and James Holmes than they do with Islam, a religion practiced peacefully around the world by more than a billion followers. Indeed, if we want to blame Muslim communities for producing terrorists than we should readily concede that our communities do the same. Yet we do not.
After September 11th until now, we have kept the promise to move heaven and earth to fight terror and to protect American citizens. For those seen as a threat, we track potential terrorists and have a do not fly list. We built a brand new agency in the Transportation Security Administration. We invaded Iraq and Afghanistan in the name of the war on terror.
Yet anybody can buy a a semiautomatic rifle with 100 round magazines and nobody will raise an eyebrow. Djohar Tsarnaev will be charged with using a weapon of mass destruction, a weapon fashioned out of a pressure cooker, that killed three and wounded scores. And if a pressure cooker is a weapon of mass destruction, then so too is an AR-15.
Let’s keep our attention on what counts: defeating terrorism in all its forms, writing laws and making policies that keep these weapons of mass destruction off our streets, and making our communities whole again. Passing comprehensive gun control legislation would be a good start.