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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What If The Boston Bombers Had Used Guns?

This combination of undated file photos shows Boston Marathon bombing suspects Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, left, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19. (The Lowell Sun & Robin Young/Here & Now)

This combination of undated file photos shows Boston Marathon bombing suspects Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, left, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19. (The Lowell Sun & Robin Young/Here & Now)

New Yorker writer John Cassidy has a thought experiment: Imagine that the Boston Marathon bombers had used assault rifles instead of bombs — what would have been different?

According to Cassidy, the Tsarnaev brothers would likely have killed more people with guns than they allegedly did with bombs.

And the initial reaction would likely have seen them not as terrorists, but as sociopaths or mentally disturbed young men.

And third, says Cassidy, the Boston bombing attack happened the same week that gun control failed in Congress — a mass murder with guns might have changed that vote.

Cassidy is emphatic in not equating, in any sense, mass shootings carried out for purely personal reasons with terrorism.

He agrees that the evidence so far points to the Boston Marathon bombing being a terrorist act; Cassidy says he’s trying this thought experiment to understand how our reactions to guns and bombs are so different.

His experiment is being debated widely on the internet, with hundreds of comments on the New Yorker site — many from outraged gun rights advocates who think he’s using a tragedy to gin up gun control.

Others are wondering, as he did, why do we respond differently to these two kinds of violence?

What’s your response to Cassidy’s question, “What would have been different?” Tell us on our Facebook page or in the comments.

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Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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