Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Tragedy and Politics in Orlando

The first news reports from Orlando called the mass shooting in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando called it the worst terrorist attack on America since 9/11. By the time President Obama made his remarks, the story had changed to the biggest mass shooting in American history. Despite calling 9-1-1 twice to profess his allegiance to ISIS and other Islamic organizations, that aspect of the massacre has been almost totally lost, buried under various agendas. This highlights one of the most shameful aspects of politics in America.

The two most commonly heard demands are that AR-15 style guns should be outlawed and that people on the terrorist watch list should be prohibited from buying guns. In short order the AR-15 was proclaimed the weapon of choice of terrorists, based on four shootings. This ignores the fact that the Sandy Hook shooter didn't choose his gun, he stole the gun his mother used for target shooting. The Aurora shooter had a tactical shotgun and a Glock as well as an AR-15-style rifle.

Keep in mind that Omar Mateen, the shooter, also carried a Glock handgun and no figures have been released about how many people were shot with which weapon, how many shots were fired, how many times he reloaded or other relevant data. He also carried something that may have been a bomb.

There is an important message by all of the attention devoted to so-called Assault Weapons*. These weapons were tools used by someone bent on murdering multiple people. If he had been unable to obtain an "assault weapon" then he would have used some other type of gun. That might have reduced the number of dead and injured but it certainly would not have stopped him. By focusing on "assault weapons" the message is that stopping this type of assault isn't really important. It's enough to reduce the number of dead and injured by an unknown amount. This is nothing but political posturing.

The reality is that rifles are seldom used in crimes. More people are killed by knives than all types of rifles combined. There are 20-30 million AR-15s alone. Target shooters love them because of the low recoil and because they are easily customized. Most crimes are done with handguns, not rifles. This is common sense. It's much harder to conceal a rifle. This is also true of mass shootings. By some measures, there have been hundreds of mass shootings since Sandy Hook but only four were mentioned when "proving" that this is the weapon of choice.

The watch list is even more posturing. It's true that Mateen was on the FBI list at one point but he was investigated and removed. He was not on the list at the time he bought his guns. As far as we know (the list is secret so we can't be sure) no mass murderer to date has been on a watch list when he bought his weapon. Congress should be investigating that rather than pushing meaningless legislation. they should be exploring ways to identify self-radicalized people.

The tragedy is being used other ways to advance various agendas. Many people have used it to condemn the Right for being anti-gay as if being against gay marriage is equivalent to wanting gays dead. A lawyer for the ALCU with a Muslim family insisted that right-wing Christians are to blame.

The left has been overly delicate about Islam. Islamic countries have no toleration for gays. Several Muslim countries will imprison or execute gays but any criticism is dismissed as hate speech. That is part of why the left is so quick to bury mentions of Mateen's religious motivations. That includes President Obama who has problems reconciling the Islam he remembers from his childhood with today's savage killers. That's part of Trump's appeal and refusing to acknowledge Islam's part in the tragedy only helps him.

* There is no official definition, the term generally describes semi-automatic guns that resemble military ones.

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