Last Sunday, President Trump tweeted a response to terrorist attacks in London: “Do you notice we are not having a gun debate right now? That’s because they used knives and a truck!” Trump took a beating in the court of public opinion for his unsympathetic and politically opportunistic comment on the tragic loss of life, criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern University writes in USA Today. The president’s Twitter feed offers nothing about Monday’s mass murder at an Orlando factory at the hands of a disgruntled ex-employee who had been fired from his job in April, in part because of an altercation with a co-worker. The co-worker was one of the five employees of Fiamma Inc. killed before the 45-year-old gunman took his own life just as the police were closing in.
Fox believes Trump should have felt compelled to write something — even 140 characters — about a tragedy in his own country. Trump may not wish to have a debate about guns and mass casualty incidents, but plenty of politicians and pundits note the high frequency of mass shootings in the U.S. compared with other Western nations that have tight restrictions on firearms. Part of the Orlando assailant’s planning involved what weapons of mass murder destruction he needed for his final act of revenge. Some 64 percent of U.S. homicides since 2000 involved a gun, and 77 percent of multiple victim incidents were committed with a firearm. Conversely, 16 percent of homicides involved a knife. Of all murder victims in England and Wales between April 2004 and March 2015, 37 percent were stabbed to death while only seven percent suffered fatal gunshot wounds. It was fortunate that the London perpetrators used knives, Fox says. If their truck had been filled with guns and ammo. the debate on the role of guns in mass casualty attacks would have been “as lively and relevant in the U.K. as it is in the U.S.,” he writes.