I’ve been doing a hell of a lot of media stuff this year; indeed, I’ve been on air at least once per week for the past nine weeks alone. The topics, in rough order of frequency, have been 1. Trump, 2. US primaries in general, 3. Brexit, and 4. English local elections.
And of course, whenever there’s a notable gun massacre back in the old country, I’m invariably somewhere trying to explain the lunacy to a British audience. Since Sandy Hook, my appearances on this topic have grown increasingly frustrated and angry — in short, not my best interviews. This one is no different. I largely ignored Orlando on Sunday, tried to come to grips with it on Monday, and I was interviewed during my first cup of coffee Tuesday morning just past 0700 British Summer Time. Between Monday and the interview Tuesday morning, I came to several tentative conclusions. First, that the ISIS connection was likely opportunistic on the part of the shooter. Yes, the FBI investigated him twice, and twice they lacked the evidence to charge him. Based on what has been reported, one would have to be truly paranoid, or perhaps Donald Trump, to make the leap that this guy was going to do this thing given the information that the FBI had at hand. But what we also seem to have at hand are reports that suggest or imply that the shooter was on some level in the closet.
Hence my argument in the interview that this was more likely an explicit hate crime attack on the LGBT community than it was an act of jihadi terrorism. This isn’t an original idea, obviously; Guardian journalist Owen Jones famously stormed off the Sky News set in trying to make this point.
Anyway, here is the interview (it begins about 36 minutes in, and isn’t long); it’s not my best work. I did some prep and had some numbers (*) — the number of gun deaths per year in the US (> 32,000), broken down between suicide and homicide (around 11,000); a league table of the rate of firearm homicides per million people (spoiler alert: amongst first world democracies, we’re number one!!! and it’s not even close. The US has 29.7 firearm homicides per one million people; the next three are Switzerland (7.7), Canada (5.1), Germany (1.9). The US is home to 4.4% of the global population, but 42% of the world’s civilian-owned firearms. As is often the case, what I prepped didn’t make it into the interview, but what I wasn’t ready for did.
I obviously wasn’t prepared to discuss constitutional law. I got the concepts right, of course, but erroneously gave the date of DC v Heller as 2010, when of course it was 2008. The incorporation case (McDonald v Chicago) was 2010. I also didn’t realise just how jarring an interview sounds like over my mobile as opposed to live in the studio. The studio is by miles my preferred medium, and this is just another reason why.
(*) apologies for the lack of sources or links; I’m just going off of the notes I made while prepping for the interview.