The Libertarian Cato Institute has recently published a risk analysis report (much like the analysis insurance companies engage in when writing policies) assessing the likelihood of an American citizen being killed on native soil by someone who has come to the United States with terrorist intentions (legally and illegally). (The full report is here.) Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst for Cato looked "at every single terrorist attack committed on U.S. soil by an immigrant or tourist from 1975 to the end of 2015" and applied some basic risk analysis.
Here are the findings:
The chance of an American being killed by a foreign terrorist on American soil is 1 in 3.6 million a year. For a little more concise perspective, "from 1975 to 2015, more than 1.13 billion foreigners entered the U.S. legally and illegally. So, more than 28 million foreigners entered the country for each successful terrorist who actually managed to kill somebody in a domestic terrorist attack."
So, what is the chance of an American being killed by another American in a non-terrorist related event-- 1 in 14,000. Between 2003-2013 an average of 28 people a year died from terrorist-related attacks. Compare that to the average of 31,516 gun deaths each year not caused by people with terrorist intentions. John Mick of Cato states, "your chances of dying like Jimi Hendrix (choking on your own vomit), while suffering from heart disease while falling off a ladder strategically positioned over a railroad track are better than your chances of dying in a terrorist attack-- let alone one perpetrated by a refugee."
So, an American is much more likely to die by gunfire at the hands of another American than by a foreign born terrorist-- but remember guns don't kill people, people kill people-- and apparently much more often than do terrorists.
Every one of us at times suffers from irrational fear. Tempered fear can be a good thing because it warns us of immediate danger, but let's be honest and confess that irrational fear just makes us stupid and we become even more irrational and even more stupid when some of our leaders stoke the fire of that irrational fear.
I am not suggesting that the United States should take a lackadaisical approach to immigration and the acceptance of refugees. Indeed, our current vetting process is quite rigorous and should remain so. What I am attempting to highlight is that when it is more likely that an American will die from being struck by lightening than being killed by someone with terrorist intentions; and when the latter scares us much more than the former, that qualifies such fear as being irrational. And when we are more afraid of dying at the hands of a refugee terrorist than at the barrel end of a gun legally owned by another American, that too qualifies as an irrational fear.
And irrational fear whatever its object can grip even the smartest people, leading them to act in irrational ways.
And that's not a good thing.