Foreign Policy Blogs

Stopping terrorist attacks starts at home


While al-Shabab poses a threat the U.S., Americans killing Americans in the more imminent danger.

On Sept. 20, 2013, the world watched the gruesome ordeal unfold in Kenya as a platoon of terrorists from the Somali militia group al-Shabab stormed the Westgate Mall in a posh neighborhood in the capital of Nairobi. As of today, nearly 70 people have been confirmed dead in the four-day siege and the death toll is expected to rise sharply as a coalition of forensic experts from Kenya, Western Europe and the United States sift through the rubble in the aftermath of the assault.

At approximately noon Kenya time on Saturday, September 20th, terrorist militants invaded the mall and began shooting and lobbing grenades at innocent civilians. Now the U.S. is scrambling to determine if al-Shabab poses an imminent threat on American soil. One of the most alarming rumors is the possibility that some Americans, as well as at least one British woman were among the perpetrators of the horrific animus. It is almost a certainty that the assailants derived from multiple ethnicities, shedding light on the influence and reach of al-Shabab, a group that was largely considered confined to the Horn of Africa and East Africa. Al-Shabab, while claiming responsibility for the onslaught through their eerie Twitter feed, stated that the attacks were planned as retaliation for Kenyan military forces involvement in the fight against al-Shabab in Somalia.

With all of the fear mongering about a potential attack by al-Shabab on American soil, especially due to their close connection with al-Qaeda forces, I began to ponder the irony of a task force trying to stop foreign terrorists from carrying out attacks on American soil. Don’t get me wrong, this is certainly a frightening prospect. However, over the last 15 years, aside from 9/11, the greatest terrorist threat to America has been well-armed Americans themselves.

Just consider that less than a week prior to the Kenya mall attacks, an American assaulted the Washington, D.C. Navy Yard, killing 12 people and injuring eight more. Six months prior to that Adam Lanza murdered 26 people including 20 childen, some as youg as six years old, in Newtown, Connecticut. A year earlier, in July of 2012, James Holmes strolled into an Aurora, Colorado theater during the opening of “The Dark Knight Rises” and began spraying the crowd with bullets, also killing 12 and injuring 58. It seems like an annual American tradition for some  American gunman or gunmen to enter a populated place and mow down innocent civilians. These people are not al-Qaeda or al-Shabab, but U.S. citizens.

Being a native of Colorado, I am familiar with the extent of tragedies that can be carried out by a determined killer with easy access to a full arsenal of weapons. Yet when there is call for stricter gun legislation, the National Rifle Association (NRA) and their card carrying members get up in arms about the violation of their Second Amendment rights. So much so that recently the NRA funded a recall election in Colorado for two state senators that voted in favor of gun legislation that limited magazines to 15 rounds and called for stricter background checks on private sales, simple responsible legislation really. In Colorado, where two major gun tragedies were carried out by U.S. citizens, people voted out the two state senators for the most minute of gun restrictions.

Most hunters will tell you that you don’t need an AR-15 to bag a buck. The only purpose of such a weapon with extended clips is to cause onslaught to innocent people, and we are worried about the terrorists on another continent. The simple fact is that when the U.S. Bill of Rights was written, the Second Amendment was inserted because we did not have a standing army and the country depended on militias to be oncall in case of an attack. Also, there were settlers on the frontier that were not defended, that needed that right to protect their families. The Founding Fathers probably did not envision a barrage of machine gun toting people with the ability to cause mass destruction to their fellow Americans in a matter of minutes.

People claim that the guns don’t kill people, people kill people, and there may be some truth to that. However, without the ability of aggravated radical to access high powered weapons, that person would have a much more difficult time causing such carnage. Since the Columbine shootings in 1999,  approimately 60 percent of the deadliest mass shootings have occurred in the U.S. The only other country on that list more than once is Finland, which has since tightened their guns laws, a move that has been balked at every time it has been raised in American politics.

Removing guns from America is impossible, the trend it too ingrained in our culture. However, fewer guns and proper checks on gun owners is not infringing on gun rights, it is simply responsible legislation. Some restrictions on guns does not mean that guns will go away completely, as I said, that is an impossibility. Just remember the next time you feel afraid of an attack by al-Shabab or al-Qaeda or any other terrorist group on American soil, look at the person next to you, odds are the attack will come from that person or someone like him or her, not a foreign terrorist.




Daniel Donovan

Daniel is the Executive Director of a non-profit development organization that focuses on building infrastructure and training in rural Sub-Saharan Africa called the African Community Advancement Initiative ( . He has a Master's degree graduate in International Relations with an emphasis on conflict resolution and development in Sub-Saharan Africa. Coupled with his extensive financial background, Daniel also works as a consultant for Consultancy Africa Intelligence in Pretoria and the Centre for Global Governance and Public Policy in Abu Dhabi. In addition to his work at FPA, he is also a regular contributor to The Continent Observer and International Policy Digest. He currently resides in Denver, CO.

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