Military & Security

Economy Bumped for Terrorism as Americans’ Top Concern

Gallup: “After the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, Americans are now more likely to name terrorism as the top issue facing the U.S. than to name any other issue — including those that have typically topped the list recently, such as the economy and the government. About one in six Americans, 16%, now identify terrorism as the most important U.S. problem, up from just 3% in early November.”

Recent Trends in "Most Important" U.S. Problems

“This is the highest percentage of Americans to mention terrorism in a decade, although it is still lower than the 46% measured after 9/11. Before 2001, terrorism barely registered as the most important problem facing the country.”

“In the past, mentions of terrorism as the most important U.S. problem have quickly fallen after a major incident. But two major attacks in short succession, at a time when concern about terrorism was already elevated given the threat of the Islamic State, have Americans on edge.”

Putting Gun Deaths In Perspective

Margot Sanger-Katz points out how rare gun homicides are in other developed countries.

“Here, where the right to bear arms is cherished by much of the population, gun homicides are a significant public health concern. For men 15 to 29, they are the third-leading cause of death, after accidents and suicides. In other high-income countries, gun homicides are unusual events. The recent Paris attacks killed 130 people, which is nearly as many as die from gun homicides in all of France in a typical year. But even if France had a mass shooting as deadly as the Paris attacks every month, its annual rate of gun homicide death would be lower than that in the United States.”

“The accompanying table shows the mortality rates for gun homicides in a variety of countries, along with a correspondingly likely cause of death in the United States.”

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America’s Map of Mass Shootings

Philip Bump uses data from, to show that “mass shootings — defined as incidents in which four or more people are shot — have happened hundreds of times over the last several years … Only once have seven days passed without a mass shooting and only once have eight days passed. Those are the longest spans — the latter happening in April of this year. Several times, six days have passed.”

Bump includes an update to his map showing the locations of the year’s mass shootings. Below: All of the shootings through Dec. 2 (as of 1 p.m. Pacific/4 p.m. Eastern).

“There have been incidents that meet the ShootingTracker standard in 46 states and in D.C. Florida, Illinois and California have had the most incidents. In each state, there have been at least 22 shooting incidents in which four or more people were shot.”

Who Takes More? Law Enforcement or Burglars?

Christopher Ingraham: “Here’s an interesting factoid about contemporary policing: In 2014, for the first time ever, law enforcement officers took more property from American citizens than burglars did. Martin Armstrong pointed this out at his blog, Armstrong Economics, last week.”

“Officers can take cash and property from people without convicting or even charging them with a crime — yes, really! — through the highly controversial practice known as civil asset forfeiture. Last year, according to the Institute for Justice, the Treasury and Justice departments deposited more than $5 billion into their respective asset forfeiture funds. That same year, the FBI reports that burglary losses topped out at $3.5 billion.”

“Boil down all the numbers and caveats above and you arrive at a simple fact: In the United States, in 2014, more cash and property transferred hands via civil asset forfeiture than via burglary. The total value of asset forfeitures was more than one-third of the total value of property stolen by criminals in 2014. That represents something of a sea change in the way police do business — and it’s prompting plenty of scrutiny of the practice.”

Terrorist Acts Prompt Governors to Reject Syrian Refugees Fleeing Terrorism

CNN: “More than half the nation’s governors — 27 states — say they oppose letting Syrian refugees into their states, although the final say on this contentious immigration issue will fall to the federal government. States protesting the admission of refugees range from Alabama and Georgia, to Texas and Arizona, to Michigan and Illinois, to Maine and New Hampshire. Among these 27 states, all but one have Republican governors.”

Washington Post 11/17/15 newsletter: “The idea of allowing Syrian refugees into America is creating fear and anxiety among some Americans — especially Republicans, who a September Quinnipiac poll found were overwhelmingly opposed to allowing Syrian refugees into the United States.”

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“In that poll, 81 percent of Republicans also said they think the Syrian refugees would pose a security risk. Perhaps no one channels those fears like Donald Trump, who has been willing to go further than any other politician to play up Americans’ national insecurities. On Monday, he said he’d “strongly consider” closing some mosques in the United States in the wake of the Paris attacks.”

Which States Conceal Police Misconduct Records?

Vox: “In a fantastic investigation, Robert Lewis, Noah Veltman, and Xander Landen of New York public radio station WNYC talked to attorneys and experts in all 50 states and DC and reviewed laws and court cases to find out which states restrict police disciplinary records. They found that 23 states and DC make the records confidential. And 15 other states limit access to them by, for example, only letting the public see examples of severe discipline, such as suspension or termination. The remaining 12 states generally open police disciplinary records to the public.”


Map: Does your state open police misconduct records to the public?

How America Dominates Defense Spending

Matthew Yglesias: “This map, found in Bank of America’s “Transforming World” atlas, dramatizes exactly how enormous our defense budget is in context:”

“Not only does the US defense budget equal about half the world’s total military spending, but a huge chunk of the rest of the total is spent by close American allies. Russia’s military spending, for example, is dwarfed by the combined commitments of the UK, France, and Germany. North Korea’s military spending looks like a tiny pimple sitting on the top of South Korea’s head.”

Only 5 States Limit Police Seizure of Personal Property

Vox: “Only five states prevent police from taking and keeping your stuff without charging you for a crime: Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, and North Carolina.”

“The rest fully allow what’s known as ‘civil forfeiture’: Police officers can seize someone’s property without proving the person was guilty of a crime; they just need probable cause to believe the assets are being used as part of criminal activity, typically drug trafficking. Police can then absorb the value of this property — be it cash, cars, guns, or something else — as profit, either through state programs or under a federal program known as Equitable Sharing that lets local and state police get up to 80 percent of the value of what they seize as money for their departments.”

civil forfeiture map

“Critics have long argued that civil forfeiture allows law enforcement to essentially police for profit, since many of the proceeds from seizures can go back to police departments.”