“America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms. You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle, without a background check, and most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?”
-American-born al-Qaeda spokesmen Adam Yahiye Gadahn
Omar Mateen considered himself a terrorist.
He wanted to make that clear to posterity before ending a shooting rampage he initiated in Florida yesterday that left 50 dead and dozens more injured – the worst mass shooting in U.S. history (so far).
During the carnage at an Orlando gay nightclub, he allegedly called 911 to pledge his allegiance to ISIS. He just wanted us to know that.
Now that the shooter’s gone, just as he would have wished, pundits are making a lot of this phone call. Though his family claims he wasn’t particularly religious, media talking heads are seizing upon this one action by an unhinged young man in order to denigrate all American Muslims.
ISIS is a militant organization. Islam is a religion.
By contrast, the KKK is a militant organization. Christianity is a religion.
But never mind that. In Mateen’s case, an entire religion is somehow responsible for the actions of one man. If he had been a white Christian – as most mass shooters are – we probably wouldn’t be seizing on his race or creed. But even though Mateen was born in this country, his family is from Afghanistan, his skin is brown, he was one of THEM.
However, there is no evidence that anyone in the Islamic community helped Mateen conduct his reign of terror. He allegedly saw two men kissing several months earlier, became enraged and planned accordingly.
But we can pinpoint one American institution that gave the self-proclaimed terrorist much aide and comfort in his scheme – the American gun lobby.
In fact, firearm powerbrokers are helping terrorists kill civilians all over the country.
No. I don’t meant to say they are working hand-in-hand with international terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda and ISIS.
But they might as well be.
Our lax gun laws are the direct result of the lobbying efforts of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other organizations closely associated with the gun industry. Those laws are being exploited by individuals like Mateen bent on murdering as many American civilians as possible.
Before Mateen opened fire, he had been on a terrorist watch list. In fact, the FBI had monitored his past activities.
You might think someone like that would not have been permitted to buy a gun in the first place. But you’d be wrong.
Just six months ago, the U.S. Senate had considered a law to restrict suspected terrorists from buying firearms and explosives, but it was defeated largely by Republican lawmakers accepting huge campaign contributions from the gun industry.
Mateen might have found it much more difficult to carry out this terrorist attack without the help he received from the NRA and so-called conservative lawmakers.
But don’t take my word for it.
Gadahn (quoted above) was killed in a drone strike in 2015, but he was not the only terrorist praising the efforts of the American gun lobby.
A six-page recruiting pamphlet found in terrorist safe houses in Kabul, Afghanistan, called “How Can I Train Myself for Jihad” instructs would-be terrorists “on the advantages the United States offers for firearms training and advises readers on how to exploit them.”
Maybe that’s why a measure like that recently defeated in the Senate to stop suspected terrorists from accessing guns was strongly supported by the George W. Bush administration.
It’s strange. Bush pushed the PATRIOT Act as an invaluable tool to keep America safe from terrorism despite the concerns that it trampled civil liberties. If lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are willing to weaken the 4th amendment’s provisions against unreasonable search and seizures in order to stop terrorism, then why do they oppose much more reasonable restrictions on the 2nd? What makes the right to bear arms so much more important than other privileges enumerated in the Bill of Rights?
In truth, it’s not a philosophical debate. It’s an economic one.
There is simply too much money being made by gun manufacturers – and thus being funneled into political campaigns – to allow for sane firearm policy.
Take the AR-15, one of two firearms used by Mateen yesterday. The same semi-automatic model he used was illegally modified and used to kill 14 and wound 21 in the San Bernardino shootings in late 2015. In 2012, it was also used in the murder of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.
It’s the most popular rifle in the country, and the weapon of choice for mass shooters.
As such, there have been calls to reinstitute the federal assault weapons ban from 1994 – 2004. Some claim that the ban was ineffective, allowing too many loopholes. Others say despite weaknesses it resulted in less people being killed by these types of weapons during the time of the ban.
Though several attempts have been made to reinstitute the ban, it has been stalled by the gun industry largely because of wordplay and minutiae.
They claim the term “assault weapons” is inaccurate at best and propaganda at worst. (Never mind that it was coined by the gun manufacturers, themselves, to increase sales.)
Rifles designated as “assault weapons” are not easily distinguishable from other kinds of rifles, they say, so banning them would lead to a slippery slope of banning all guns.
The most basic difference is the firearm’s ability to expel multiple rounds quickly. Because of this, the rifles included under assault weapons bans are usually semiautomatic – a new round is automatically reloaded into the chamber but is not fired until the trigger is squeezed again. The weapons also have detachable magazines, allowing them to fire 10, 20, 30 rounds or more without the need to reload.
However, bans often include “military style” rifles that are not necessarily semiautomatic. Gun advocates claim these rifles are similar to firearms excluded from bans except for cosmetic features to make them appear more militaristic.
Those could include features like a pistol grip, designed to allow a weapon to be fired from the hip; a collapsible or folding stock, which allows the weapon to be shortened and concealed; a flash suppressor, which keeps the shooter from being blinded by muzzle flashes; a muzzle brake, which helps decrease recoil; and a threaded barrel, which can accept a silencer or a suppressor. Bayonet lugs or grenade launchers are also sometimes included.
But are these features truly just cosmetic? Or do they actually make these rifles much more dangerous? No one needs a grenade launcher to hunt for game or protect their home.
When people call for gun regulations, they aren’t necessarily calling for a ban on all guns.
People want a degree of safety in public spaces. They don’t want to be cut down by one or two gunmen causing exponential carnage in seconds.
That seems a reasonable expectation.
Gun industry surrogates claim safety is best assured if everyone is packing heat – an endless stalemate.
In point of fact, there was an armed police officer working security yesterday at the gay club when Mateen sprayed the crowd with bullets. Though he traded fire with Mateen, he was unable to stop the carnage.
Moreover, adding more guns to public spaces only increases the chances of more shootings, many of which would probably be accidental.
The rest of the world has figured this out. There really is no argument to be made here. Polls show that most of the public wants some kind of gun control.
But it won’t happen so long as the gun industry is allowed to buy our lawmakers.
It won’t happen so long as we allow gun industry trolls to drown out all reasonable discussion with their circular zombie arguments.
Mateen couldn’t stand the sight of two men publically expressing their love for each other.
The gun lobby can’t stand the idea of reduced profits.
And together those two aims make up the twin pillars sheltering American terrorists everywhere.