The slaughter of 49 people at a gay club in Orlando earlier this month by a man who pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State has set off an all-too familiar routine of outrage and stalemate.
The battle lines are drawn quickly and both sides of the political spectrum only wanted to focus on the problem that appeals most to its relative base of support. But that guarantees little or no progress.
The facts are this: An Islamic fundamentalist who should not have been in this country was able to get his hands on weapons he should not have been allowed to buy. Addressing only the immigration angle won’t prevent another mass shooting and calling for some kind of assault weapons ban won’t solve this issue either. If you don’t address both problems you’ll have more of these kinds of attacks.
The gun-control advocates want to ignore the terrorist aspect of this massacre. The shooter was a U.S citizen after all, Democrats like President Obama were quick to point out. He was a troubled person who beat his wife and may have been gay himself, they argue. He didn’t know his ass from his elbow as far as the Islamic terror elements fighting in the Middle East, paying homage to both ISIS and a Floridian jihadist who died fighting ISIS.
But a confused, closeted gay terrorist is still a terrorist. And if you talk like an Islamic terrorist and act like an Islamic terrorist…
The rapid reaction to focus on guns and the burying of heads in the sand on the fact that this was a terrorist attack sends the message loud and clear: multiculturalism is a faith that people will stick to despite multiple bloodbaths. It demands that you look the other way and not institute any reforms that might tangle with the theory that we can somehow fill the American melting pot with religious crazies and walk away unscathed.
Even when the perpetrator is a brown-skinned closeted gay Muslim who pledged allegiance to ISIS, it’s somehow dumb rednecks and their love of guns that’s responsible for this. It’s easy to paint the N.R.A. as the villain here because it makes it easy to fall into the same old political roles we are comfortable with. Violence, outrage, stalemate, repeat.
The other side of the issue is more troubling to think about. That is the idea that our immigration policies over the last several decades have placed a fifth column of potential terror recruits that are replenish and multiplied with each generation. We’ve seen this with other populations of Muslims in the U.S. as well, most notably with the children of Somali refugees from the Minneapolis area that have returned to their homeland to join the extremist Al Shabaab group. The Orlando shooter was a U.S. citizen; that’s true, but his family came here under a refugee program. If we had a well-functioning immigration and refugee system, this guy would not have been here.
Curbing home-grown Islamic terrorism means making massive immigration reforms that are currently labelled xenophobic by open borders advocates. We cannot bring large numbers of Muslims into the country and not expect to have some of them become radicalized. This doesn’t mean banning all Muslims from entering the country—that would be asinine and alienate some of our most stalwart allies in the fight against Islamic fundamentalism. But it means having a stringent program to weed out potential troublemakers, institute swift deportation programs for those refugees and immigrants that prove themselves undesirable, and bring in much lower numbers of refugees and immigrants.
Limiting access to assault rifles or “assault style” weapons means that we develop a very well-defined and expensive system for keeping track of people who are not worthy to own firearms. And let’s not confuse the issue: the overwhelming majority of murders in this country are not mass shootings with assault rifles but handgun murders. You could eliminate all “assault style” rifle killings and still not put much of a dent in the murder rate. You have to keep track of the people who should not own guns. Piddling over what guns are legal or not will do little.
And my fellow gun owners need to fess up that the situation is out of hand when home-grown jihadists can be better armed than our police. Yes, our crime problem is more one of demography than armaments, but the patchwork gun laws we have in the U.S. does not serve us well. We will be better with a centralized system with a full due process that overrides restrictive local laws but allows the government to stop bad guys from having guns.
Both of these reforms mean that we admit that very powerful partisan articles of faith are wrong. We have to admit that large-scale availability of military-grade weapons is a bad idea and needs major reform. We also have to admit that large-scale immigration from dangerous parts of the world is an abject failure and needs to be sharply restricted if not curtailed with minimal exceptions for outstanding allies and truly deserving and well-vetted refugees.
For the first time since 1920 the New York Times put an editorial on its front page calling on the U.S. to ‘End the Gun Epidemic in America.’ The editorial came in the wake of an Islamic terror attack by a husband and wife team in San Bernardino, California that killed 14 people and wounded 21 others.
The bodies were still warm when the name of the lead suspect in the massacre was made public, and the New York Times played dumb for a few days. The paper first noted that the suspects left “no clear motive” but a day later said that terrorism was an “aspect” of the investigation. After every other newspaper in the world said it was terrorist attack, the Times noted that the F.B.I. was treating it like one. Watching the Gray Lady perform the mental gymnastics of wondering aloud about the motive of these shooters over several days was sad to see. Don’t hurt yourself thinking too hard, New York Times, most of us had it figured out early.
But while the newspaper of record was too chickenshit to call a terrorist attack a terrorist attack, it wasted no time in its front page editorial painting the exercise of Americans’ constitutional rights as a “moral outrage and national disgrace.” The editorial called for “eliminating large categories of weapons and ammunition” and saying that citizens would have to surrender some of their arms “for the good of their fellow citizens.”
What’s galling about the Times’ editorial, among other things, is that the motive of religious terrorists was very relevant when a Christian fundamentalist shot up a Planned Parenthood clinic, but somehow discussing motive is shameful of the wake of the latest Islamic terrorist attack within our borders. The anti-abortion crazy who killed three people at the women’s clinic was spurred in part by anti-abortion propaganda that hinged on fraudulent videos. It’s not anti-Christian bigotry to call out the role of religious extremism in the Colorado terror attack, but somehow Islamic extremism isn’t quite news fit to print, at least for a few days and then qualified by citing the F.B.I.
There are a lot of issues that need to be discussed in the wake of this terror attack. We need to have a more restrictive and security-driven immigration system. Muslim Americans are more susceptible to violent religious fanaticism than people of other religions and rooting out these elements is going to be a very tough and brutal effort.
But the culture war dictates that the gun control issue is pushed to the fore. So let’s address it then.
What gun control advocates don’t understand is that gun ownership is an integral part of America. We wouldn’t have America without individuals owning guns and it’s no coincidence that the first British troops fired upon in Lexington and Concord were there to confiscate guns. The Second Amendment gives the right to bear arms to “The People” and cites the need for a militia because our country’s founders didn’t want what we already have: a standing military with bases in more than 100 countries. The authors of the Second Amendment viewed such professional militaries as a threat to democracy. Getting rid of “certain kinds of guns” is going to be fruitless because technology will not stop developing and there are already many guns on the market that straddle the line between hunting weapons and assault rifle explicitly for this purpose. We can’t eliminate the right to bear arms without amending the Constitution, and anyone who wants only the police and military to have guns is either extremely naïve or harbors some kind of odd uniform fetish.
What some of my fellow gun enthusiasts don’t understand is that we already have the worst of both worlds. Our guns aren’t stopping the government from undemocratic policies and we have horrible levels of violent crime. If the government wants your name they are going to have it, and it won’t take them long to find our guns if we bury them. The law enforcement officers or soldiers we’d be fighting are often gun enthusiasts themselves so I don’t see some great gun confiscation coming, despite the wishes of the editorial scribes of the New York Times.
So here is a solution that might actually work if it’s ever implemented. What would work is to have one federal system for keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, the mentally ill and extremists. This would be one standard for the entire country. One set of rules for everyone to follow. It would mean passing a basic safety course and background check, and making sure that there were proper training for different weapons (e.g. – operating an assault rifle takes more training, especially with models like the AR-15 so popular in the U.S.). There are safety and security protocols everyone must follow and these would be subject to spot inspections in order to keep your certification. A basic mental health evaluation would be included. How this entices gun owners and manufacturers is that this would END the bans on assault rifles and “high capacity” magazines popular in many liberal states. It would END the absurd and unconstitutional red tape that many cities and states put around the exercise of our constitutional rights (the cost of the gun permit in New York City is more expensive than many guns).
Trying to take entire classes of guns and ammunition out of Americans’ hand is not only going to be unconstitutional but unsuccessful. But creating a system that both embraces our rights and regulates against the very real danger of violent crime will be a welcome solution.