Opinion, Berkeley Blogs

Why London is safer than Oakland

By Malcolm Potts

I am glad that next week I will fly to the safety of the United Kingdom.

The terrorist attacks in Manchester (22 killed and 119 injured) and London Bridge (7 deaths and 48 injured, some critically) are horrible tragedies and I don't want to diminish their significance. But for an average individual citizen walking the streets, or drinking in a  bar, the  USA is much more deadly place than  than the UK..

crime scene tape Yesterday in the United States, an average of 289 people were shot and 36 killed. Today, in the United States an average of 289 people are shot and 36 killed. Tomorrow, in the United States, an average of 289 people will be shot and 36 killed. It simply goes on and on.

Since 1963 more Americans have been killed on the streets and in their bed rooms than died on the battlefield in the Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.  Even in 2001, when the 9/11 attacks killed 2,977 people, I was three times as likely to be killed by a neighbor with a gun than a suicidal terrorist.

We ignore violent deaths when they occur one at a time, but react strongly to several violent deaths in the same place, at the same time. Why? I suspect it is a response that proved adaptive in the Stone Age. We are an extraordinarily violent species. For most of human history, if you found one corpse it might have been someone who fell out of a tree or had been attacked by a lion, but if you found two or more corpses in the same place it was a very strong indication that somebody out there was attacking your clan. It made sense, in Shakespeare's words "to screw your courage to the sticking place."

President Trump still lives in the Stone Age. Following the London attack, he tweeted, "Do you notice we are not having gun debate right now, That's because they used knives and a truck." No!  Every day guns in America kill seven times as many people as many people as a van and knives did in London on one day last week.

Sadly, there are few ways to stop radicalized young men willing to die when killing others from mounting attacks. There are many proven ways to reduce gun violence.

Next week, when I land in London, I will feel safer than I did when I took off from San Francisco.