Ils auraient pu faire beaucoup plus de victimes avec des fusils d'assaut qu'avec des bombes artisanales. En revanche ils n'auraient pas été accusé d'utilisation d'armes de destruction massives, une ville entière et sa banlieue n'aurait pas été mise sous couvre-feu toute une journée et les parlementaires n'auraient pas remis en cause les lois sur l'immigration. Par contre la loi sur le contrôle de la vente des armes à feu en vote quelques jours après au Sénat, serait probablement passée, alors qu'elle a lamentablement échouée.
Set off in a public space a couple of crude, homemade bombs that you appear to have made using a recipe on the Web, and the state will make you Public Enemy Number One. To insure that you are caught and punished, there are virtually no lengths to which the authorities won’t go. They’ll assemble a multi-agency task force overnight, calling on some of the enormous investments in hardware, intelligence, and manpower that have been made since 9/11. They’ll haul in anybody who might be remotely connected to the crime scene, and, if necessary, shut down an entire city. Once you’re caught, they’ll interview you in your hospital bed without reading you your legal rights and then charge you with using W.M.D.s. If you weren’t born in this country, there will even be talk about changing the immigration laws.
If you systematically shoot a classroom full of defenseless six-year-olds and blow off your own head, things proceed rather differently. To be sure, you, or your memory, will be hated and vilified. But the political system, in hock to the N.R.A., will classify you as a nut whose deadly actions have few or no policy implications. (With the demise of the gun-control legislation, that’s what it did with Adam Lanza.) Life and politics will go on as normal. The President will probably visit the scene of your outrage and say consoling things to the families of your victims. He’ll mean what he says, but he won’t be able to do much about it, and nobody will ask why the F.B.I. or the C.I.A. didn’t realize you were such a menace to society and lock you up preëmptively. Crazed shooters, after all, are something we’ve grown used to.
Because we have become inured to deaths from shootings, and because of the association of guns and liberty in the minds of many Americans—an association assiduously promoted by the gun lobby—the political system no longer responds to gun deaths. Terrorist acts, on the other hand, even ones masterminded by Mutt and Jeff from Cambridge rather than Osama and K.S.M. from Tora Bora, still have the power to spook the nation and swing the entire U.S. government into action.