Another day, another 93 Americans shot dead. I didn’t get the numbers wrong, I’m talking about today. Because 93 is just the average number of people who are killed by gun violence on an average day in the United States. Sunday will be marked as an above-average day when it comes to numbers and statistics, because 58 people in the same place were shot and killed in a matter of sickeningly smattering seconds while attending a concert in Las Vegas. They were all innocent, helpless victims who lost their lives because a 64-year-old white man felt he had the authority and right to make that decision for 58 people he had never met before in his life, and because he happened to have access to at least 12 automatic weapons. As with any act of terror, the victims just happened to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time. But our country and its system are not helpless, innocent victims. And we shouldn’t make them so. Sarah Sanders, White House Press Secretary, said on Monday that the time for a political debate on gun laws is “not the place that we’re in at this moment.” No, Ms. Sanders — that is exactly the place we are in at this moment.
Now is the time to discuss stricter gun laws, but now is also the time to discuss why 80% of all violent crimes are commited by men. And now is also the time when we as a country, as a world, need to start to talk about why men’s violence is still not classified as acts of terrorism? Why, when the offender happens to be a white male, he won’t ever be known as a terrorist in the eyes of the media, and thus in the eyes of the public. He will be remembered as a “lone wolf,” a “lone gunman” or, as per the The Washington Post in the instance of Stephen Paddock, “he’s just a guy who played video poker and took cruises and ate burritos at Taco Bell.” Yes, until he decided to take the lives of 58 people, and injure 500 more – because he felt the entitlement to. Gun violence, as all violence, is gendered.
In every average American month, 50 women are shot to death by former or current boyfriends, husbands or lovers. Out of all mass shootings between 1982 and 2017, 87 out of 90, or 97%, were conducted by men. Out of those, 50 out of 90 (51 out of 91 as of Sunday) times, or 56%, the shooter was a white man. Gun violence, all violence, is a gendered act of terrorism.
Men’s violence against women, against other men, against any person who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, might be the biggest unfought terror network in history. It happens every day, many times a day, in every country around the world. And until we start to recognize it for what it is, an act of terror, there will be no end to it. When we label a white man whose rage and violence will make him take other people’s lives, because he feels he can, as a terrorist, and when we put that into the context and history of all the other “lone wolves” before him who have done the exact same thing in the past, he will not be remembered as a “lone wolf” anymore. Or as a guy who liked to gamble and eat Taco Bell. He will be known, rightfully so, as a terrorist. And that will be the only way we can fight this ongoing, male terrorism.
Top photo by Joel Bombardier/flickr.com
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