Stephen M. Walt

Why gun control matters more than terrorism

Wednesday night’s presidential debate is about domestic policy, but that doesn’t mean the candidates can’t be asked questions that use foreign policy to raise an important point about domestic issues. Pivoting off this recent column by the Boston Globe’s Derrick Jackson, here’s the question I’d like moderator Jim Lehrer to ask President Obama and GOP ...

By , a columnist at Foreign Policy and the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.
Lars Baron/Getty Images
Lars Baron/Getty Images

Wednesday night's presidential debate is about domestic policy, but that doesn't mean the candidates can't be asked questions that use foreign policy to raise an important point about domestic issues. Pivoting off this recent column by the Boston Globe's Derrick Jackson, here's the question I'd like moderator Jim Lehrer to ask President Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney on Wednesday.

"Since 9/11 the United States has spent hundreds of billions of dollars protecting Americans from "global terrorism." Yet the number of U.S. citizens killed by terrorists is very low. Since 9/11, in fact, the United States has lost on average fewer than 32 citizens per year to terrorist violence. Even if you include the 2,689 lives lost on 9/11, the annual average over the past 11 years is less than 275. And 9/11 was clearly an anomaly.

By contrast, every year more than 30,000 Americans are killed by guns here in the United States, a rate higher than any other advanced industrial country. Given that extraordinary death toll, why have both of you failed to speak out about the need for more effective gun control, even after several recent mass killings? As president, what will each of you do to decrease the danger Americans face from domestic gun violence, which is far greater than the risk they face from global terrorism?"

Wednesday night’s presidential debate is about domestic policy, but that doesn’t mean the candidates can’t be asked questions that use foreign policy to raise an important point about domestic issues. Pivoting off this recent column by the Boston Globe’s Derrick Jackson, here’s the question I’d like moderator Jim Lehrer to ask President Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney on Wednesday.

"Since 9/11 the United States has spent hundreds of billions of dollars protecting Americans from "global terrorism." Yet the number of U.S. citizens killed by terrorists is very low. Since 9/11, in fact, the United States has lost on average fewer than 32 citizens per year to terrorist violence. Even if you include the 2,689 lives lost on 9/11, the annual average over the past 11 years is less than 275. And 9/11 was clearly an anomaly.

By contrast, every year more than 30,000 Americans are killed by guns here in the United States, a rate higher than any other advanced industrial country. Given that extraordinary death toll, why have both of you failed to speak out about the need for more effective gun control, even after several recent mass killings? As president, what will each of you do to decrease the danger Americans face from domestic gun violence, which is far greater than the risk they face from global terrorism?"

Stephen M. Walt is a columnist at Foreign Policy and the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.

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