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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.


Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Dab200

    Why aren’t multiple magazines and semi-automatic guns are NOT considered WMD?????

  • J__o__h__n

    They shot one of the victims. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      yup with their illegally purchased guns

  • Mel

    Let’s turn this around “What if the recent US shootings
    were pressure cooker bombs?”. When the Boston bombing first happened and  the gun vote was coming up, I actually thought
    that a gun activist was trying to make the point that a deranged person out to
    do harm could do it with cheep everyday items.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      somehow they cant accept that and have this myth that guns and guns alone are dangerous or deadly

      • Elizabeth

        This is total nonsense. Who is saying “guns and guns alone are dangerous or deadly?” Who? I really want to know. Where does this crap come from?

        Not to mention–the 2 co-sponsors of the background checks bill who both given A ratings by the NRA, and ARE gun owners.
        Is there some law that says all debate on this issue has to be completely devoid of facts and reason?

        • Duncan Brennan

          Just because the NRA grades them with an A and are gun owners does not make their legislation worth passing or guarantee that their legislation will BE effective if passed. On that same token, just because someone claims that 90% of the population is for it does not make it a good legislative package.

          If a productive debate is going to be had, both sides need to abandon the party line and bring reason to the table, this includes gun control and gun rights groups.

          • Elizabeth

            This is exactly what I’m talking about.

             I said NOTHING about the merits of the recent legislation (its effectiveness, etc.). I’m merely addressing the assertion that “they” believe “only guns are dangerous.” What is the basis of this assertion?

            Obviously it is not the belief of the sponsors of this bill, as their NRA ratings show. It’s not like they are gun control activists. 

            And, proposing a piece of legislation on any one thing (use of toxic chemicals; speeding limits; drunk driving laws) does not mean you think “only that one thing is dangerous.” It just makes no sense.

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            i forgot how they think big sodas are dangerous too.  we never hear about knife violence or car violence or chemical violence (unless its in syria) its only guns that are portrayed as capable of causing violent acts  when that is utter nonsense.

        • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

          every time you hear about “gun violence” they are implying that violence with guns is somehow different from other types of violence. this article is even implying that guns are more deadly than bombs. the whole gun control argument is that if some how guns can be “controlled” people wont kill each other or themselves and thats nonsense.
          why mention it? who cares what the nra ratings are? do you vote based on them?

  • Romig Mark

    How can Congress criticize the FBI for their handling of the Boston bomber and YET did nothing to do their part and pass legislation to control the mentally ill and criminals from purchasing guns?   Congress members need to be replaced.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      they did not buy their guns legally.(and they were in fact bombers so this gun thing is a canard.)  so what legislation would have prevented them from buying their illegal guns? seems to me more gun control will do nothing but expand the black market.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paul-Escobar/1656454264 Paul Escobar

        And, they also bought the fireworks presumably legally, although possession in MA is illegal (?)

        The bigger issue, as i see it, is why so many angry young men who resort to mass violence. Gangs, shooters, and now bombers.

        • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

          i agree for sure. these idiots to me seem more like the idiots in columbine  than bin laden. too much testosterone and not enough sense

      • Derp

        Then…I don’t know..LET THEM BUY THEM ON THE BLACK MARKET. It’s better than opening up the gun shop then turning your back while they take  whatever they like as cheaply as possible.

        Not sure why people think a background check is such a bad thing unless… of course all the gun owners scared of background checks would fail one.

        • Duncan Brennan

           So, even though I have a DoD clearance, and can pass for the next tier up, I’d fail a background check for a firearm because they cause me concern.  I believe your logic may be slightly flawed.

          If you think about how many FFLs there are in the U.S., and how many sales they make in a year, both individually and collectively, the dealers are overwhelmingly honest.

          My point is this:
          Before we enact new laws in a knee-jerk reaction to events, why don’t we enforce and prosecute the laws already on the books? Because, I don’t know, selling to felons and purchasing for felons are already illegal.  That would be a great way to start taking a real bite out of violence and leave the law abiding gun owners alone.  And congress doesn’t need to be involved in the equation.  This can come straight from the President.

          If you haven’t exhausted all of the resources you already have on hand, why are you looking to bring new ones in?  In my mind, that’s common sense. 

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            much better than my answer

        • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

          what are you talking about? all gun owners in MA go through at least 2 very extensive (besides the mentally insanity records that MA wont share with the NICS, not sure if they use that in the permitting process) background checks before any weapon can be purchased from a store and at gun shows and online, actually you cannot buy a gun online directly at all you need to have it shipped to a licensed dealer. when you do a private transfer you are required to file paperwork with the state. if one were to really limit the availabilty of domestic sources for criminals and terrorists to get guns that would instantly result in the import of vast quantitys of fully automatic AK47 s which can be purchased, retail, for $50 usd all around the world. to me that sounds like a bad idea

  • ros

    The reaction to the bombing in Boston has been different,  but should be not differet in the end as an assault weapon is by defnintion a weapon of mass destruction.  The only difference is the bombers were not immediately identified and so fear of further attacks were there.  With a gunman,  the person at the other end of the gun is usually hoping to be caught it seems.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      are you serious? its laughable that they have called those dinky bombs weapons of mass destruction, weapons of modest destruction at best. if you want to learn about weapons of mass destruction go read about our bombings in dresden and hiroshima. maybe you need to tell us your definition of what a weapon of mass destruction is

  • PoliticsWatcher

    “use a tragedy as an excuse for gun control”

    No, use a tragedy as a reason for gun control.  The whole point of gun control is to prevent tragedies.  Duh.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      seems to always have the opposite effect

    • acpie360

      And tragedies always seem to happen to soft targets in the supposedly gun-free zone. Duh.

      • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

        sure seems like it. maybe they needed some “bomb free zone” signs in the area.

    • Duncan Brennan

      If background checks and “assault weapons” bans are so effective why do places like Chicago and California plagued by so many shootings?

      If you don’t like guns and want to ban them, be honest about it.

      If you want more sales going through the NCIS system, make the case for it with statistics that are current, scientifically measured and calculated.  I can spew stats from either the NRA or the Brady Center until I’m blue in the face, it’s not going to change that the statistics were calculated to specifically prove a point and curtailing rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights on propaganda is dangerous at best.

      If you want to solve  the issue of firearms being used in violence, it makes more sense to look at violence overall.  All violence, whether it involves melee weapons or firearms is likely to be interrelated.  I’m willing to bet, and I am not a betting man, that a lot of the violence in this country has other crime, most often drug or gang components as an underpinning issue.

      Why should self defense for the average citizen be curtailed on the actions of a criminal element? Why should we be deprived of our Second Amendment rights AND our Fifth Amendment rights because of the actions of a patently criminal element?

      You cannot legislate tragedies or criminal behavior away completely.  We measure murder and violence rates in the occurrences out of the hundreds of thousands.  This is proof that, for the most part, the majority of the citizens are following the rules.

      I’m a gun owner and carrier.  I’ve not met a gun owner that wants to force those that choose not to own guns to purchase them, why should we accept the idea that because my neighbor does not own firearms, I should not?

      For the record, I am not advocating relaxing the NFA controls on FULLY automatic weapons because they are inherently harder to control.  SBRs, SBSs and suppressors should be removed from NFA controls.

      • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

        yup common sense gun reform to me is getting rid of some of the 20,000 or so laws that not even cops or attorneys general understand

  • Isaac

    How are terrorists really any different than shooters?  Isn’t anybody who kills innocent people mentally ill by definition?  I don’t care what ideology they may identify with, they’re crazy!

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      you identified it actually its only their faith that defines them as terrorists. i think its very telling that we have not heard any more about the 7-11 armed robbery. they locked down the city because of a teenager with a gun on the loose while completly ignoring the teenager on the loose who held up the 7-11.  i am surprised no one has raised the concussion issue as the guy was a former boxer maybe that was what did it

  • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

    According to Cassidy, the Tsarnaev brothers would likely have killed more people with guns than they allegedly did with bombs.
    really? thats pure speculation and utter nonsense. he must have never heard about the OKC bombing or the first world trade center bombing. does he have any reason to believe that none of the dozens of cops there would have returned fire and that there were no LTC holders in the area? 
    And the initial reaction would likely have seen them not as terrorists, but as sociopaths or mentally disturbed young men.
    not when they found out they were muslims. is this guy new?
    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.
    -sounds like he is disappointed.

    what else is stupid here is that they did in fact have and use guns so we know exactly how many people they would have shot and its one.
    why does npr publish this stuff?

    • acpie360

      Why does npr publish this stuff? That’s because Robin Young is very much anti-gun. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

        i guess it makes sense since she hangs out with terrorists

    • The Outsider

      The saving grace here was that those who seek to perform such violence tend to lack imagination in the execution.

      It’s not guns that are dangerous. Its the bullets. Those things need to be heavily regulated; most houses, apartments, and cars are not bullet proof. One cool regulation might be to ensure that bullets are not so powerful as to be capable of passing through the “attacking target” and down the block into your window to tap you on the back.

      (Republicans seem insane)

      • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

        people who dont understand anything about ballistics yet want to invent new bullet laws seem insane. republicans  do to me also but at least they understand how guns work. i dont think the scenerio you described happens very often and when it does it is most likely some gangbangers shooting at each other with illegal guns and ammunition and not legal gun owners so banning this or that would not affect them.
        i do agree with you though that we have been protected thus far much more by the incompetence of our enemys and watchful citizens than any security theater or disposal of our rights

  • Logical55

    What a disgusting interview. John Cassidy is obviously so disappointed that the massacre in Boston was not performed with an assault rifle !Just to advance his agenda?  I do not even know what to say!! 

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      i picked up on that too

  • howardmthompson

    I believe attributing a percieved difference in our reaction to our views about guns is a mistake. We seem to react to gun violence in a manner similar to our reactions to most death and injury. It’s our (over)reaction to terrism that’s the outlier. Compare our react to the Boston bombings to our reaction to the disaster in West, TX.

  • Duncan Brennan

    I just finished listening to your arguments on NPR just north of Nashville, TN.

    I was concerned about the language used.

    The first is referring to semi-automatic weapons as “high-powered.”

    If a weapon fires the .223 Remington cartridge, which is the round the AR-platform rifles use, it will have a muzzle energy of between 1124 ft-lbs and 1330 ft-lbs when using a 24″ barrel. The Soviet-designed 7.62×39, the round that the Kalashnikov-platform rifle uses, the energy will range somewhere between 1500 ft-lbs and 1600 ft-lbs out of a 16″ barrel. 

    Common hunting cartridges tend to generate more.  The .308 Winchester cartridge generates 2650 ft-lbs to 2900 ft-lbs, the .45-70 Government, designed in 1873 generates anywhere from 1700 ft-lbs to 3450 ft-lbs in a 24″ barrel.

    I could list other energies generated by other calibers, but it’s not productive.

    Other terms that cause great concern for me is the specificity that accompanies the term “gun death.”  To me, that says that you are placing victims killed with a specific tool, a firearm, as somehow more heinous, more important and more worthy of attention than someone who is stabbed or beaten to death.

    I am not pro or anti background check.  I am most assuredly FOR legislation that takes into account more than just the tool that was used to kill or maim.  I dismiss out-of-hand most of the solutions proffered by gun-control groups. Why? Because the deaths of children and other innocent bystanders deserve more than knee-jerk legislation concocted out of a need to do “Something.” 

    Poorly crafted and poorly reasoned legislation is not going to bring dead children back to life, and the less thought we put into legislation to prevent violence, the less it’s going to do and the more times we’ll be called to “do something” will increase.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      well said

  • Dhrosier

    Firearms are noisy.  The first discharge attracts a lot of attention, hopefully from other people equipped with tools appropriate to deal with the situation.  Even an automatic weapon would not be capable of getting off a full magazine before someone was able to get off one shot at one target.  If we have to wait for a policeman that is likely to take a few minutes, likely giving time to reload another magazine, but could be less than half a magazine if someone nearby has a concealed carry…

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paul-Escobar/1656454264 Paul Escobar

      The average sociopath also doesn’t have very quick reload skills.

  • Dhrosier

    Gun violence is like a rifle shot, one projectile each trigger pull which could possibly hit 2 or 3 people but often misses the target, especially in the hands of people not trained and practiced.  The pressure cooker bombs killed only 3 BUT maimed hundreds and crippled the lives of many thousands more when families are included.  Further, the entire city of Boston was shut down for several days because of the danger of further such attacks.

    The guest today (on Here and Now) made the specious and misleading comparison of 3,000+ who died in the 9/11/2011 terrorist attack on America with 10,000+ who die each year from gun violence.  The truth about 9/11 is that tens of thousands of people were physically maimed and millions of lives emotionally crippled, and the impact on the GLOBAL economy beyond measure.  The bomb at the 1996 Olympics, Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma, the 9/11 attack and now the Boston Marathon attack were all executed with no firearms used in the acts, and I am sure there are many others which if I spent more than 5 minutes trying to remember.  The tragedy of those who died is horrible, but the tragedies of those who were maimed and crippled is many times larger.

    Even if gun control laws are amended and drastically expanded they will do little to reduce the death and suffering, but that will be a distraction and we will once again ignore the inconvenient question of the causes.  Guns are only tools, I question if even one of these horrible acts has occurred because someone got hold of firearms and decided that was a good reason to go kill some people.

  • Elizabeth

    I don’t understand why this “thought experiment” is producing such outrage–it poses some questions that are well worth thinking about.

    Not least of which, is our tolerance as a society for the insane degree of gun violence that occurs. This strikes many people outside of the US as bizarre and incomprehensible. Here in the US, if you suggest we do something to try to prevent babies from being murdered en masse, you are considered the outrageous one.

    Why is it that we can justify any deprivation of rights in the name of trying to prevent a terrorist attack? Holding people indefinitely without charges; targeted killings with no due process–A-OK. But even this milquetoast background checks bill has people talking about revolution. Why is that? Personally, I feel much more terrorized by the massacre in Newtown, and I’m sure many parents feel the same. I worry every day–because we have done NOTHING to keep it from happening again tomorrow. Whereas, I never worry about dying in a terrorist attack. The number of Americans killed by terrorists is minuscule compared to those killed by guns.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      i think its because the conclusions he has drawn are so absurd. personally i think your anti abortion rant is out of place here.
        how would a background check expansion have prevented newtown or the same thing from happening again? nancy lanza rightfully  passed all  her background checks. the number of americans killed by terrorists in the last 15 years is much much more than mass shootings or school shootings so maybe you should relax and work to ensure that teachers have the option of exercising their rights at work and “gun free zones” are banned. if you have time you should continue to implore people to not overreact to the threat of terrorism with expansions of the police state and military industrial complex

  • Mark Moon

    As to the idea of how we react to gun violence as apposed to terrorist is a rather skewed reality. The question is, what is the difference between political motivation and Public Safety? What prevents or engages law enforcement’s ability or lack of, to enforce the laws and expend the same effort to seek out the perpetrator regardless of the victim. this has been evident in the list of crimes where a murdered little girls gets little traction and a murdered Texas District attorney gets several agency’s attention, where 3 shooting victims of a drug squabble gone wrong in the inter-city  get little traction and the entire region of southern California’s Law enforcement agency’s  array  a multiple-agency force to apprehend one man who was a cop himself  and in the process the state ends up in the middle of a shoot out initiated by law enforcement that many saw as unnecessary. Where does the equity of shutting down a city or a transportation system and scaring a public , discharging all sorts of ordnance and actually allowing the terrorist to achieve what they wanted from the start. It was what it was from the start there was no intention on the part of the men who carried out the bombing that they would survive they wanted the world to know that they were willing to commit such a crime. There is a greater problem here why is that elephant still sitting in the corner of the room?

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      because the 24hr news loves the dramatic video. there is also the whole racist issue if you believed the news was accurate then blacks and hispanics never get kidnapped or murdered by their husbands but blond haired blue eyed girls were getting scooped up or snuffed out all the time

  • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

    oh i thought of what would have been different. they purchased all their bomb making materials legally and their guns without permits

  • Djs

    Leave it to a New York writer to insult the Boston Police Department.

  • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

    what if they had used rainbows or kittens?

  • http://profiles.google.com/barry.kort Barry Kort

    It occurs to me that Americans are inured to gun violence, but terrified of improvised explosive devices, many of which are so easy to build that a teenager can do it with inexpensive materials that are readily available.  In terms of copycat violence, I would expect to see a rising tide of IEDs, just as Molotov Cocktails become commonplace in protests against the Soviet Union.

    To my mind, what’s important is to discover what is transforming disaffected young men into sociopaths who would blithely detonate these deadly devices in public places in their own communities.

  • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

    there already is a shortage and price gouging on ammo. thanks to the best salesman in the world, oboma, ammo is very hard to come by. you should inform the police of your theory about guns not being a useful tool for personal defense. how will people in an unarmed society be able to keep me safe?
    gun control is what is racist. look at history. all gun control efforts are to disarm  and criminalize the bahavior of already disadvantaged groups.  the current gun craze has been created by obomas gun control efforts. if he and shotgun joe biden drop the issue people will relax and maybe we can end this ammo shortage

    • TheOutsider

      Much of the US has been subjected to an ongoing propaganda campaign by the so-called “right.” The brainwashing has resulted in the transfer of rights and other valuables to a few and an elevation of autocratic unaccountable corporations (restrain only by court order — greed is good).

      Imagine a world where everybody has a loaded gun. We would all be polite and nice to each other for fear that we may get our head blown off, as oppose to nowadays where we are rude and kick each other every chance we get. 

      Now suppose there is a misunderstanding…a compliment interpreted as a rude unforgivable insult. If the insulted is fast and accurate he may kill the insult-er and end the matter. Or she kills him. However, if their aim is not good, alcohol for instance, the casualty count and property damage may climb. If other patrons of the bar feel threatened some may try to end the matter through participation. If the walls are not bullet proof…then there is road rage, accidents (only god is perfect), etc. 

      There use to be a few deaths each year in Hollywood just from gun shooting blanks! 

      If you feel you need a gun then you don’t feel safe. If you don’t feel safe, that is a social structure problem. A failure in the organization of the society….You are suppose to feel safe in society; that’s it’s purpose…a gun is just a band-aide over a cancer.

      I should have invested in some gun manufacturers.

      • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

        yes just as soon as society is perfect no one will need guns. as long as there are criminals lunatics and terrorists running around with them its not unreasonable to arm ones self.  having a gun is not a license to pull it out or shoot anyone and people are responsible for the crimes they commit with them.   i too have been trying to find a way to profit from the rush i would suggest investing it winchester, CCI and federal ammunition as they are making a product that is sold out as soon as they make it

      • Duncan Brennan

         Only God is perfect, presuming you believe in the Christian God, but that’s a rant for another time.

        I can only speak for myself when I say this:  My owning and carrying a gun is in response to a real threat, not a feeling of a threat.  If I do not FEEL safe, I examine my surroundings, use my instincts, use observation and logical analysis to determine what in my surroundings is making me feel unsafe.  If it’s something I am doing, I stop, if it’s something outside of my control, I leave the area. If reaching for a firearm is your first course of action, that is the wrong answer, and one that will most likely land you in jail.  Your first and foremost weapon should always be what’s between your ears in conjunction with your five senses.

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