A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Monday, September 26, 2016

How Likely Are You To be Killed By a Terrorist? By a Refugee Terrorist?

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.


Unknown said...

Idiots. Tell the 280 Americans who were killed by terrorists in the past ten years (if that number is actually accurate) they were so lucky that they only had a one in 1.3 million chance of dying that way! I am sure they are lying in their graves with smiles of relief on their faces!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Allan R. Bevere said...


No one is saying that those 280 deaths don't matter. I'm glad to have you engage in discussion, but please discuss the substance of the post. Your comments are not a response, but rather an irrational emotional appeal.

And name calling will get your post deleted. Civility is required for discussion.

Unknown said...

Go ahead and delete it.

Mark said...

I think the people killed in the towers on 911, at the Boston Marathon massacre, and the victims and attempted victims of the multiple terrorist attacks and attempts on our country by Muslim extremists on and since 911 would disagree with your figures.

These are dangerous days, and our country is in danger of these terrorists. No, we shouldn't live in fear, but we also can't avoid reality and take better steps to protect our borders and our country. This administration has turned a blind eye to the dangers, and we are paying for it.

And some of these terrorist attempts on American soil have been by refugees.

Allan R. Bevere said...


If you disagree with the figures (and they are not mine; they are from the Cato Institute) then demonstrate alternative figures; don't just assert they are not right without a research alternative. By the way, I have looked at the numbers from various groups that have research this and while the numbers do vary a bit, they are not significant.

Again, some of your points have nothing to do with my post. I said in the post we should be diligent in vetting refugees. I did not suggest we should avoid that reality, so why say it? Neither do I dispute that some terrorist attacks could come at the hands of refugees. Again, my point was to suggest that the fear exhibited by many far outweighs the reality. Those same folks don't seem to be worked up into a lather over the 31,000 gun deaths at the hands of other Americans every year. I submit again that amounts to an irrational fear.

That is the only claim of my post.

Allan R. Bevere said...

I wonder how many of those Americans that have died at the hands of legally owned guns would dispute your figures?