On Sunday, a gunman opened fire in Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people and injuring 53 more, and it is now the deadliest mass shooting in American history. According to CNN, the shooter claimed allegiance to ISIS during the attack — and on Sunday afternoon, Florida Senator Bill Nelson told reporters at a press conference ISIS' news agency stated that the group is responsible for the attack, but the report remains unconfirmed. With Brussels and Paris in the not so distant past, and with so many, many buzzwords being connected to this event — mass shooting, terrorism, hate crime — what comes next, as it so often does, is a knee-jerk reaction from some to blame Muslims.
Blaming Muslims for acts of terror like this is not the answer. In fact, it's the opposite; it's something that detracts from the larger issue and instead breeds ignorance. And not only that — it perpetuates stereotypes that are factually incorrect.
According to The Huffington Post, data from the FBI reported that 94 percent of terrorist attacks carried out in the United States from 1980 to 2005 have been by non-Muslims. In Europe, where terror attacks have been more publicized in the past five years, less than 2 percent of terrorist attacks across Europe were committed by Muslims from 2010 to 2015, according to The Daily Beast. In the same Daily Beast article, data from a 2014 University of North Carolina reported that since 9/11, of the 190,000 Americans murdered, terrorism was responsible for only 37 of those deaths.
A 2010 study released by the Pew Research Center in January 2011 stated that Islam has 1.6 billion adherents in the world, about 23 percent of the world population. As Omar Alnatour stated in his article for The Huffington Post, "There have been 140,000 terror attacks committed worldwide since 1970. Even if Muslims carried out all of these attacks... those terrorists would represent less than 0.00009 percent of all Muslims."
Muslims are not the issue. Islam is not the issue. Guns are the issue. According to BBC News, in 2015, 13,286 people were killed in the U.S. by firearms in 2015. According to The Guardian, in the same year, only 14 deaths in the United States were linked to acts of terror related to Islam.
In fact, according to a study by PBS, according to a study by PBS, by the time the San Bernardino shootings occurred in early December 2015, there had already been 355 mass shootings in the United States — only one of those events has been specifically linked to radical Islam, according to the FBI as reported by The Guardian. In the same year, there were 27 mass shootings in Florida, none of which were officially linked to radical Islam.
As an American who's from Florida, these numbers horrify me. As a young adult in this country, I long ago started looking over my shoulder in a crowded college classroom. I'm often suspicious of the person who walks into a movie theater alone. I think twice about going to crowded concert. Mass shootings scare me. But the fact that it now takes a superlative like "worst in American history" to separate this from the hundreds upon hundreds of mass shootings that happen in this country every year horrifies me even more. Because as scary as the word "deadliest" is, the truth is that, at the core, this isn't different than the hundreds of other mass shootings that happen in the U.S. every year. They all have one thing in common — and it isn't radical Islam. Not even by a long shot. It's guns.
So every second spent falsely stereotyping and blaming Muslims is not only the pointless perpetuation of facts that simply don't exist, but an excuse for people to ignore the real problem of gun control. Because the real facts — the facts that matter — are as follows: The vast, vast majority of mass shootings and terror attacks are not committed by Muslims. There were enough mass shootings in the U.S. last year for one to happen almost every single day of the year, with the exception of only 10 days. There have been mass shootings in every space we know as safe, sacred, or fun (movie theaters, elementary schools, dance clubs, churches). And, if you really wanted to, odds are, no matter who you are or where you live in the United States, you could probably buy a gun today. Because when 20 first graders were killed, nothing changed. When nine people were killed during a Bible study, nothing changed.
And as long as people continue to falsely place the blame on Islam and Muslims and ignore the real problem of lack of gun control, nothing will change. People will buy guns, and people will die. There will be another "deadliest" shooting that is more horrifying than this one — and a terrifying, looming statistic like 50 deaths will be suddenly dwarfed by a larger number and so on and so forth. So don't be scared of Muslims or Islam; be scared of doing nothing. Be scared of nothing changing. Because that's the real threat. That's the threat that facts can support.