Donad Trump took to twitter yesterday with this tweet:
Text: “Do you notice we are not having a gun debate right now? That’s because they used knives and a truck!”
Trump was, of course, referring to Saturday’s London Bridge attack, in which three terrorists killed seven by plowing a truck through a crowd and going on a stabbing spree through nearby restaurants. Many more were injured. It’s true they didn’t use guns, and it’s true we aren’t now having a debate over guns. But we could.
This attack happened in Britain, where it is far harder to gain access to guns. Given that ISIS is encouraging its adherents in the U.S. to get guns at gun shows, it is likely that the London Bridge attackers would have used guns if they had had access. Indeed, ISIS-inspirted attackers in the U.S. typically do use guns. Consider that a single attacker in Orlando killed 49, with guns. In San Bernardino, two attackers killed 14, with guns. Some years back a right-wing extremist angry at Europe’s growing diversity killed 69 children at a summer camp, with guns. Imagine what the the three London Bridge attackers could have done with guns.
I’m sure we all remember the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, where an attacker killed 20 children and 6 school employees. I remember it well, as it happened only shortly before my oldest was due to attend kindergarten. I also remember reading about a second attack on an elementary school in the weeks after Sandy Hook, this one in China, only there, the weapon of choice was not a gun. Instead, a man stabbed 23 children. None of them died. I was struck by the differences between the two incidences, occurring within weeks of each other.
So by all means, if Donald Trump wants, we can talk about guns. No one believes gun control would end violence. To state otherwise is to create a strawman. The issue is simply this: other means are typically less deadly. It’s hard to kill as many people with a knife as you can kill with a gun. We’ve been talking about the MAX killer, an anti-Muslim extremist who used knives to kill two in Portland a week ago—how many would he have killed if he had had a gun and had gone on a shooting spree, picking off the people around him one by one? How many more would the London Bridge attackers have killed if they had left their truck with semi-automatic guns and ammunition, rather than with knives?
It should not come as a surprise that ISIS is encouraging its American adherents to obtain guns, not knives. Guns are simply more deadly.
Of course, I don’t actually think the conversation in the wake of the London Bridge attack should be about guns. Such a conversation is political rather than practical. There are other things that should be discussed. At least one of the attackers was reported as a suspected extremist; the same was true of the Manchester attacker. There should be a conversation about how anti-terrorism forces respond to reports of extremism. Then there is the use of trucks as weapons of terror. Cities may be able to erect pilings or other forms of unobtrusive barriers to prevent vehicles from entering crowded pedestrian areas. Training sessions or PSAs on responding to a knife attack might help bystanders learn to disable an assailant.
Unlike Trump, I’d rather talk about what we can do to prevent or impede future attacks of this sort than make political points. But if Trump wants to talk about guns, fine. We can do that.