In breaking news, the Islamic State has taken credit for its role in the deaths of 50 at the PULSE Orlando nightclub. The shooter, Omar Mateen, reportedly took issue with the behavior of club goers (according to his father) and initiated the rampage in the early morning hours. This event is consistent with Islamic State actions and philosophy. Indeed, the Islamic State has, in the past, thrown gay residents of cities it has captured off rooftops to their deaths.
Despite this, a local Islamic leader and certain members of the media are making this tragedy all about gun control and even the National Rifle Association. The shooter, a security guard, had a Florida concealed weapons permit.
President Obama spoke on the shooting and deplored it as the deadliest mass shooting in American history. He admitted it was an act of terror and urged Americans to decide whether this was the type of “country we want to be”. This statement obviously was meant to refer, not to our penchant for allowing our public meeting places to be soft targets for terrorists, but to whether we wanted to be the type of country that allowed gun ownership.
Although his efforts to outlaw guns have met with resistance from a Republican congress, a recent court ruling upheld the right of California officials to deny weapons permits to all except those with, for example, restraining orders due to imminent danger. This ruling also challenged the meaning of the second amendment as to whether the average citizen is allowed to own a firearm.
This is not the only threat to gun ownership in the United States. Hillary Clinton has plans to go about it another way: She’ll allow gun manufacturers to be sued for violence caused by their products. Enough big judgments against them, and no one will manufacture guns in the U.S.
Given the possible result of the elections in November, Barack Obama or his successor can expect less trouble getting gun control legislation passed in the future. They can expect even less trouble getting the courts, including the future more-liberal Supreme Court, to bow to his/her wishes.
To think that preventing average citizens to have guns will stop events like the horrific Orlando shooting is faulty reasoning. Do we really believe that the Islamic State is going to have difficulty obtaining firearms or the components of an explosive device? Sure, about as much difficulty as Chicago gangs have getting weapons.
The shooter was on the FBI radar a couple of years ago due to his extremist beliefs. Perhaps some more diligence and aggressiveness in dealing with terrorists in the U.S. would go further than denying average citizens a chance to defend themselves. Are there so many that the FBI or Homeland Security can’t keep up with them? If so, we’re in for a very rough future. Taking America’s guns from the hands of law-abiding people is the anti-strategy for this problem. 300 people were in the nightclub when the shooting occurred. If a few of them were armed, perhaps some of those killed would still be alive.
There’s a way to mitigate the damage caused by terror events. People of all political stripes should consider ways to protect themselves in crowds and, always, where to find the nearest exit; businesses should have medical kits clearly visible (how about next to the fire extinguisher?), and means of personal defense behind the counter.
Tragedies like this have become part of the New Normal. It will, surely, happen again. Even IF it were a good idea (it isn’t), it would be decades before disarmament would have any effect on criminals and terrorists, if ever. When only these people have guns, we might as well be living in the Zombie Apocalypse. It’s time to be tougher on suspected terrorists before they act.
Joe Alton, MD