I feel for the family members and friends of those who have been impacted by the terror attack in Orlando. On Sunday, June 12th 50 people were killed and 53 more were wounded in a heinous terror attack committed at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, FL by a homophobic U.S. citizen with ties to ISIS. These facts are indisputable along with the fact that this individual was identified as a terror risk by the FBI on more than one instance. I will not be mentioning him by name because that’s exactly what people who commit these sort of crimes want. They want recognition and attention, so this is as far as I will go on that topic.
As usual with these sort of crimes, Democrats and Republicans have both rushed to make political points on gun control and terrorism. As usual, both sides are playing a game of political football and both are wrong. This is a terrible mistake that the United States must stop making as a country. Nothing is black and white, there’s certainly gray area. Here are where both sides are going wrong:
Why Democrats are Wrong about Orlando
So far on Facebook, I’ve seen posts like this one from liberals:
“Assault Weapon” is a Fancy Term for Military Looking Weapon
Let’s get some facts straight. Automatic assault weapons are already illegal in the United States. From every indication, the terrorist used a Colt .223 Assault Styled Rifle and a Glock 9mm or guns similar to them. AR stands for Armalite, the company who first designed the rifle style back in the 1950s. It is a style of rifle that can shoot a variety of rifle rounds, most common in the U.S. being the .223/5.56 NATO round. It is a style of rifle, nothing more, nothing less. Here are examples of guns that would not be considered “assault rifles” according to liberals, but still would have a similar amount of lethal force considering the circumstances in which the terrorist used it:
Unless liberals are suggesting banning every semi-automatic rifle in the country, then this notion of “assault rifle” is rather silly. On top of that, assault rifles are NOT responsible for the majority of mass shootings. Here’s a graph that shows the weapons used in mass shootings from 1982-2012:
I could explain how calling all rifles “assault weapons” is incredibly ridiculous, but I’ll avoid that one for now. Either way, rifles account for fewer than 30% of guns used in mass shootings and a handgun or shotgun could be used in a close quarter situation to create similar results.
Magazine Clip Limits are Not the Answer
The next argument typically made is “well, we need to limit magazine clips.” This argument is made with the idea that it gives someone more time to get away if someone has to reload after 15 bullets rather than 30. That argument doesn’t really hold weight though when most mass shootings are committed by semiautomatic handguns. With those guns, even an extended mag often doesn’t have more bullets than 15. Also, the Orlando shooter shot over 100 people. To be able to do that, he would’ve had to reload multiple times with a standard 30-round magazine. With proper clothing, someone can have many magazines on them and a criminal who wanted to create maximum casualties would surely devise their own extended magazines. With this law, all you’re doing is weakening the average citizen in a home-defense situation. Here are a few real-world examples where a magazine limit could have cost the lives of innocent people: http://www.usnews.com/debate-club/should-high-capacity-ammunition-magazines-be-banned/high-capacity-magazines-are-needed-for-self-defense . In a mass-shooting situation, the shooter will have multiple magazines on their body. Your civilian in home defense often won’t have the time to reload.
To really stop a mass-shooter, you need someone shooting back. Most mass shooters are cowards. They often commit suicide after their attack and don’t like being challenged. Here’s the perfect example of a situation where a concealed carry holder saved the day: http://www.inquisitr.com/1562350/walmart-shopper-saves-life-of-another-customer-because-he-is-carrying-a-gun/ . Here is another: http://concealednation.org/2015/06/video-concealed-carrier-stops-mass-shooting-in-georgia-store-saving-lives/ . The best way to combat a mass murder is to have someone shooting back. That’s why we bring in police SWAT teams with high-powered guns.
Waiting periods do not prevent pre-meditated terrorist attacks
Another argument made by many liberals is “well, if there was a waiting period then they wouldn’t be able to commit the attack.” This is wholly untrue. Most terrorist attacks involved months of planning and are not heat of the moment crimes. There are really only two purposes for waiting times as stated by gun control activists:
- Give law enforcement officials sufficient time to perform a background check
- Provide a “cooling off” period to help guard against impulsive acts of violence
Number one should be covered by a background check that would notify if someone shouldn’t be purchasing the weapon. There’s no indication that a longer waiting period would allow for a more in-depth background check than would be completed otherwise.
Number two only works for impulsive crimes, but terrorist attacks aren’t usually impulsive. The best way to institute a slight cooling off period that isn’t burdensome would be to require the completion of a gun safety course prior to obtaining a weapon. This isn’t a solution given by any Democrats though who want well over-the-top waiting periods combined with any courses. Creating overbearing regulations just to prevent gun purchases is still denying a constitutional right. Using it as an excuse for gun control will kill any potential reforms.
The “No-Fly” List is an Automated List Without Proper Oversight
“We should prevent anyone on the no-fly list from owning a gun,” is a common retort of many liberals. The problem with this list is two-fold.
One: The no-fly list has MANY false positives. In fact, even a U.S. Congressman has ended up on the list. The late Ted Kennedy also ended up on the no-fly list at one point. There’s no due processes to be placed on such a list and if you aren’t a prominent politician, it may not be easy to get off the list. Using this arbitrary, automated list to prevent U.S. citizens rights is dangerous and doesn’t do anything to make the country safer.
Two: This creates a false sense of security. If a U.S. Congressman and Senator can end up on the list, it’s obvious that people on the list are not being closely monitored. If that’s the case, someone on the no-fly list could easily create a terrorist plot using IED’s like the Boston Marathon bomber. Guns are not the issue here, the issue is properly identifying and neutralizing threats. By leaning on preventing people on the no-fly list from getting guns, you’re ignoring the many other possibilities out there. We do need to prevent imminent threats from acquiring weapons, but the no-fly list isn’t an imminent threat list if there’s such blatant false positives.
This IS Islamic Terrorism
Many liberal leaders, including President Obama, have said this isn’t an issue with islamic terrorism. Of course this is! This terrorist pledged allegiance to ISIS shortly believed he died and used his religion as the backbone of his homophobic beliefs. It’s important that we make the distinction “Islamic terrorism” too. By not making this distinction, liberals are allowing some in the far right to tie these attacks to all Muslims. They’re also ignoring the huge elephant in the room that the biggest threat to U.S.: homegrown terrorism. ISIS’s ability to turn U.S. citizens against their own country is the one of our greatest threats to national security. Many, including this New York Times writer, argue that because past attacks have been committed by non-Islamic terrorists that we shouldn’t stereotype. Here’s the problem, that’s ignoring the scope of attacks like Paris, and ignoring the potential for another 9/11. ISIS has the funding and network scope to provide the infrastructure to conduct attacks far bigger than those committed by most lone gunman. If groups of ISIS sympathizers who are U.S. citizens actually coordinate, we are looking at an even graver situation. Here’s what a former co-worker of the terrorist said:
“Gilroy said he complained to his employer several times but it did nothing because he was Muslim. Gilroy quit after he said the terrorist began stalking him via multiple text messages — 20 or 30 a day. He also sent Gilroy 13 to 15 phone messages a day, he said.
“I quit because everything he said was toxic,” Gilroy said Sunday, “and the company wouldn’t do anything. This guy was unhinged and unstable. He talked of killing people.”
This situation can happen because we aren’t identifying this as Islamic terrorism. To be vigilant and find solutions, we must first identify the problem. The problem is we have a group who is a significantly greater threat to weaponize U.S. citizens against the United States than any other. Liberals should acknowledge this point and stop trying to pretend it isn’t there.
Why Republicans are Wrong about Orlando
I am a Republican, gun owning, card holding member of the NRA. I also think Republicans have been making such generalizations about Islam and gun reform that it’s despicable. Here are quotes I’ve seen from Republicans today (one of whom from a former major contender for U.S. Senate):
“We need to round them all up and ship them out”
“We don’t need any gun reform, we need to use existing laws”
“Muslims are the problem”
“We aren’t responsible for the hate for gays”
Each of these quotes has issues and is ignoring the bigger picture.
Muslims are not the problem, they are part of the solution
If Christianity was being used as an excuse for heinous acts, wouldn’t you want to make sure it was addressed? Wouldn’t you also be less likely to address the situation if you’re being lumped in with the terrorists? This is exactly what’s going on with Muslims. Many Republicans right now are blaming these attacks on all Muslims and saying “we need to kick them all out now.” The only way to stop these attacks from happening is to stop extremism within the religion. The best people to do that are peaceful Muslims. There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world right now. If even 1 percent of them were extremists, we would have 1.6 million jihadists to deal with. Statistically, that means the humanity should be over by now. Clearly that’s not the case as ISIS currently only has 25,000 members worldwide. This is not to diminish the potential for violence from those members, but it is to acknowledge that it is a very small group of Muslims who support a demented form of the religion.
Republicans must stop demonizing all Muslims and be very specifically against extremists. Threatening to ban all Muslims in the United States is more likely to create more ISIS members within the U.S. Spewing hate re-enforces the ISIS propaganda that all Americans hate Muslims and as a result, Muslims should join ISIS. Stop playing into the hands of ISIS and treat members of the Muslim community as partners to bring extremists out of the shadows.
Homegrown terrorists are a problem and we need to make it harder for them to be armed
This man was a U.S. citizen. He was not someone you could just round up and ship out as a former U.S Senate candidate recommended today on Facebook. ISIS will surely use the Orlando terror attack to justify increasing their resources towards radicalizing U.S. citizens. Ensuring that radicalization does not occur and those who are radicalized are identified is crucial. It’s also very important we prevent future terrorists from obtaining weapons in the first place.
Aggressive gun control for political motives is not the answer. Gun reform with better background checks is the answer. Our current system of background checks uses the “National Instant Criminal Background Check System” or “NICS.” NICS allows gun stores to call into the FBI or similar agencies and check if someone is eligible to purchase a firearm. States are not required to submit mental health records to the FBI though and there isn’t an effective “threat level” system in place to prevent terrorists from owning a weapon. As long as someone doesn’t have a record and answers the right way to certain questions, they’re in the clear. This isn’t even mentioning the gun show loophole where people can purchase weapons without a background check at all.
Let’s look at a potential real scenario going forward: A group of five men who were born in the United States become radicalized and plan to commit an attack. They are identified as a serious risk by the FBI, but they decide to purchase AR-15’s with bump-fire stocks at a gun show so they go unidentified. For those who aren’t aware, a bump-fire stock essentially allows an AR to fire fully automatic. They will never send off a warning signal to law enforcement and the “crazy NRA gun supporters” will be blamed for this attack. It’s important to get in-front of this issue for the sake of national security. While many of the gun control suggestions are crap, this one needs to be addressed. We need to make sure we are doing what we can based on information that’s already available.
A good guy shooting a bad guy doesn’t work every time
Every American has the constitutional right to own a gun. Not every gun will be used for good though and guns can’t fix every time a bad person uses one. In this situation, the attack was committed in a nightclub where drinking is commonplace. While this is from a left leaning site, it makes the obvious points about why mixing guns with alcohol probably isn’t the best idea. There are dangers to the “good guy shooting bad guy” scenario if there are multiple “good guys” who can’t properly identify the true threat. There’s also the danger of an inaccurate shot due to someone who wasn’t properly trained on their weapon. It’s important we promote gun safety and recognize that guns do have limits. The “good guy shoots bad guy” scenario does happen and at a minimum is a good deterrent, but in this particular scenario, even an off-duty cop was unable to prevent further loss of life despite a gun battle with the terrorist. It makes it harder to make a case for responsible gun ownership when “good Samaritan shoots bad guy” is the catch all recommendation. It’s a situational solution, but this attack may not be the best example. A better one would be a woman being attacked late at night or an attempted carjacking.
Republicans have been vilifying the LGBTQ community and it needs to stop
This man was a member of ISIS, but there have been many murders against the gay community by right-leaning white supremacists as well. As a society, we need to stop attacking certain groups of people based on their life choices. By treating others like less than human, you’re desensitizing people to committing violence against them. This isn’t okay. Just as many Republicans have used their religion to justify attacks on the gay community, so have some Muslims. Let’s be clear, this was Islamic terrorism and conservatives aren’t to blame for this attack. It does make it support for the community fall on deaf ears though when you’ve been verbally attacking them for years. As Republicans, we’re supposed to support government that allows people the freedom to do what they please with small limits. Let’s start acting like it.
Where we go from here
The gun reform debate is a longer discussion that should have its own post, but overall we need to look at reforms that ensure those who shouldn’t have guns don’t get them without seriously infringing the rights of gun owners. We also need to make sure we identify the fact that extremist Islamic terrorism is a real problem that will likely get worse. We can’t pretend it doesn’t exist or act like ISIS doesn’t have much greater potential to commit mass-murders than other extremist groups. It’s also a lie though that “most Muslims are extremists” because the data doesn’t show that.
More effective threat identification and prevention system
The system in place failed. The FBI interviewed the terrorist three times in the last three years. He was a known quantity who had made inflammatory comments alleging terrorist ties, had potential ties to a suicide bomber, was a domestic abuser, and his father was rumored to be a Taliban sympathizer. With this many strikes, it’s quite obvious (after the fact of course) that he was a much greater threat than your average citizen. While he may not have been able to be prevented from purchasing weapons, his background certainly should have warranted an interview and investigation. The issue of “siloed data” is another big concern. Many times, information isn’t shared between agencies and as a result, lapses occur. It’s critical that information is shared with the FBI to ensure the proper risk assessment can be completed. While privacy concerns are real, there are ways to ensure that the flow of information is protected in the proper manner. Only with proper information can proper threat detection techniques be put in place.
Escalating threat levels and detection systems are required for situations like these to prevent an attack before it occurs. The only way to do this is to ensure we have a more credible background check system in place for gun ownership without any loopholes. This will require a certain level of gun reform, but must be done in a bipartisan fashion that is highly targeted with just-reasoning.
Scrutinizing people entering/leaving the United States
While this terrorist was a homegrown terrorist who had not traveled to another country, many do. As the FBI admitted, it must do a far better job of scrutinizing the travel plans of potential terrorists. Many will travel to a foreign country and get radicalized while they are there. We cannot admit people into this country who are not well vetted to ensure they are not entering for nefarious purposes. This comes back to the “levels of threat” mentioned before. Each level should trigger an action and multiple points of concern should ensure someone is not easily removed from the list. If someone on the list is attempting to purchase multiple weapons, that should warrant at least an interview from an involved agency.
As you can see, the solution actually takes from areas both Republicans and Democrats are suggesting, but doesn’t go as far in either case because it’s about solutions, not politics. Bipartisanship is the only way we will prevent future attacks. If you agree, consider hovering over and sharing the image below.
Also published on Medium.