A few months after the 9/11 terrorist attack, a group of friends and I went to see a comedian named Ahmed Ahmed (he said he's the only guy on the no-fly-list ... twice!). He noted that in a poll shortly after the 9/11 attack that muslims were the 3rd (or maybe 4th - I can't remember) most hated group in the United States. Given that the carnage on 9/11 didn't do it, he wondered what on earth muslims had to do to be number 1!
Well, it looks like muslims may get a shot at Ahmed-squared's coveted top spot of being hated given the recent suggestion that muslim immigration to the United States be restricted. Yet, to me, the recent attacks seem incredibly lame compared to 9/11.
Here are some numbers: in the United States, around 7,500 people die each day (all causes); approximately 30 of those die from gun based homicides (less than 1/2%); about 1% of murders are from mass shootings; a tiny fraction of mass shootings are bona-fide muslim terrorist attacks.
We never hear about the vast majority of the approximately 30 people who are murdered by guns each day. 30 people is simply not newsworthy in a country of more than 300,000,000 people. We don't really care, nor should we - it's simply too unlikely to happen to you or those you know to be bothered with and it's too small of an impact on the day-to-day lives of Americans to put more energy into worrying about it.
On the other hand, we can probably all name quite a few mass shootings even though 2 orders of magnitude fewer people die in those than in plain-vanilla gun homicides. It seems to be an inherent innumeracy of the human psyche to be oh-so-ho-hum about 30 gun homicides a day but be terrified, terrified I tell you, of the much rarer mass murder like the recent one in San Bernadino. And if that mass murder is of the even rarer type perpetrated by someone of a different tribe (for example a muslim), then it is all the more terrifying.
I would hope that terror doesn't overwhelm all reason though, for example when it comes to reasons for restricting immigration. On the topic of terror, religious freedom, and immigration, in a recent post by Scott Adams (the author of the Dilbert comic strip), he wrote:
But if the risk is more than tiny, can you put a price on your love of religious tolerance? In other words, how many dead Americans are you willing to accept? I’ll go first.
Personally, I would accept up to 1,000 dead Americans, over a ten-year period, to allow Muslim non-citizens to enter this country. My calculation assumes we are better off accepting some degree of tragedy in the name of freedom.One-hundred dead Americans a year? When 30 are already murdered using guns each day? A no-brainer, in my opinion, being less than 1% increase.
Unfortunately, I suspect the indirect deaths alone will be far higher. While Obama and others push for gun control after each of these incidents, a large number of people rush to gun stores and buy weapons and ammo. After all, they're terrified and want to defend themselves and I don't blame them. But there are already several hundred accidental firearm deaths annually. More guns may or may not mean less crime but they almost certainly mean more accidents and more accidental deaths. My guess is that each terror attack will cause more Americans to die because of increased gun accidents than die in the incidents themselves. That's not inherently bad. I can understand the argument that it is better to die defending oneself or even just preparing to defend oneself or in the process of preparing to defend oneself than to live in fear. I think the numbers say we shouldn't be living in fear anyway, at least not yet, but that's clearly just my subjective opinion.
Will (muslim) immigration increase the number of terror attacks? Well, it certainly won't decrease them. That's why I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing to have a debate about restricting immigration of muslims, even though my vote (at this point) is to not have such restrictions.