Election 2020 Politics

Greene, when a Brit asked about mass shootings: What about mass stabbings?

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Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) had just finished reading a statement in opposition to a bipartisan agreement aimed at addressing gun violence on Wednesday when a British reporter made an observation.

“We don’t have guns in the U.K., that is true,” the reporter said, “but we don’t have mass shootings, either. Children aren’t scared to go to school.”

“You have mass stabbings, lady,” Greene replied. “You have all kinds of murder. And you’ve got laws against that.”

“Nothing like the same rates here,” the reporter replied.

“Well,” Greene replied, “you can go back to your country and worry about your no guns. We like ours here.”

“That’s very kind of you,” the reporter answered wryly.

Greene apparently thought she triumphed in this exchange, posting it to her Twitter account. She did not.

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It is true that knife violence is considered a problem in Britain. A rise in stabbings in recent years prompted a flurry of news articles and analyses aimed at exploring the phenomenon. And it is also true that there have been incidents in which multiple people are stabbed in one gathering.

But there’s simply no comparison between violent crimes involving knives in the U.K. and crimes involving firearms in the United States.

Part of the reason that stabbings are such a focus of attention in Britain is that there aren’t hundreds of shooting incidents that might otherwise draw scrutiny. Data from the U.K. and U.S. governments shows that the rate of homicide deaths from stabbings in England and Wales is about seven times that of the rate from firearms — because there are far fewer firearms in the population. The United States actually has a higher rate of stabbing homicides than the U.K, 6.3 per million residents versus 3.9 per million. But since the rate of deaths from firearms is so much higher — 61.9 per million in 2020 — we rarely discuss the frequency of stabbing deaths.

What Greene is doing, of course, is something different. She’s trying to equate mass-shooting incidents with mass-stabbing ones in the abstract. It’s a bit like the Heritage Foundation’s embarrassing effort to downplay major mass-shooting events by noting that “in other countries, bombings, mass stabbings, and car attacks frequently kill more people than even the deadliest mass shootings in the United States.”

That six people were killed in China in 2014 when a car rammed into a crowd (as Heritage notes) is not actually a reason to shrug at mass shootings in the U.S. — that the incident in China was something exceptional is the point. There have been at least 29 mass-shooting incidents since 2019 in which at least six people were killed according to the Gun Violence Archive.

This overlaps with Greene’s point. Yes, there are mass stabbings in the U.K., but they’re also far less deadly than mass shootings for reasons that no adult needs to have explained to them.

In April, four people were killed in a mass stabbing incident in London, a remarkably deadly incident for the country. There have been at least 14 mass-shooting incidents this year in the U.S. that have left at least four people dead. That’s just the incidents; 91 people died in those shootings.

Many of those who advocate for looser gun laws no longer try to downplay the reality of gun violence in the United States, arguing instead (as in this CNN report on gun enthusiasts in Oklahoma) that it is an unavoidable reality that demands a literal arms race in response. Regardless of how one feels about the argument, it is at least reality-adjacent.

Greene’s argument is not. It’s whataboutism of the most easily deflated kind. Gun homicides are worse in the U.S. than in the U.K. So are knife homicides, but we don’t notice because they sit in the shadow of the death toll from firearms. But we like our guns, as Greene put it, so that’s that.

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