So I’ve been spending a couple of days letting the news gather, reading commentary and thinking about the Orlando massacre. What follows are a few gathered thoughts on the killing and issues related to it. The short version is that I find myself agreeing with Brian Doherty. As much as we want to stop these events, there’s not a lot we can do short of destroying our way of life. We are a free country. We allow people, at least in theory, to go anywhere they chose, to live in privacy, to express themselves as they wish and, yes, to buy and bear arms. Almost all of the “solutions” proposed for mass shootings involve crushing those freedoms for people who have not done anything: restricting someone’s freedom because some government bureaucrat thinks they might be a terrorist, maybe; taking away “assault weapons” that millions of Americans own and use without harm; expanding the power of government to monitor and control our lives.
These are all solutions running around in search of a problem they can solve. They will not be used to stop acts like the Pulse killings. They will almost certainly be used to prosecute the War on Drugs, to punish people for wrongthink and to crack down on groups we either don’t care about or don’t like. We’ve panicked like this before: internment of the Japanese, the Patriot Act, the Alien and Sedition Acts, the Sedition Act of 1918. Let’s not keep repeating the errors of the past.
In keeping with my earlier post on Sandy Hook, I will not type this terrorist’s name or talk about him in any but the most oblique terms. I believe that a significant motivation for both spree killers and terrorists is fame. I believe that one of the reasons they do what they do is so that they can become a household word. I have no delusions that a little blog will change this. But I’m going to keeping doing this anyway. Instead, I’ll name some of the victims:
— Independent US (@IndyUSA) June 13, 2016
The Gay Thing:
In the aftermath of these murders, a strange debate has raged over whether this killer attacked because he was a devotee of ISIS or because he hated gays. This debate has become fiercer now that we know he frequented the club from time to time. But … this should not a debate. Devotion to ISIS and hatred of gays are kind of related.
A person can be a violently self-loathing closet case *and* a devout-if-demented believer. The former all but requires the latter.
— Dan Savage (@fakedansavage) June 13, 2016
The killer swore allegiance to ISIS. ISIS commands its followers to kill Americans and to kill gay people. Did he kill gay people because he was devoted to ISIS? Or because of internalized hatred of his own possible gay tendencies? I would say, with 49 bodies on the ground, there’s plenty of blood to go around.
I do think it’s time that we stopped tolerating people who preach violence against gays — be they Imams or pastors sharing a stage with American politicians. I do think it’s time we call out those who supported Uganda’s anti-gay law, that originally prescribed the death penalty for gays (in a Christian country, not an Islamic one).
As for hate crime laws … I am very dubious of laws that criminalize thought. Yes, we differentiate between those who kill from anger and those who kill with pre-meditation. But criminalizing motive worries me. That having been said, if we’re going to have hate crime laws, if we’re going to expand them to include crimes against law enforcement as Louisiana did, we might as well expand them to cover LGBT people, who are, by far, the biggest recipients of hate crimes and violence in the country.
— HAL 10000 (@Hal_RTFLC) June 14, 2016
The Islamist Thing
This country is one giant soft target. There are growing indications that ISIS wants its followers to carry out attacks like this: surprise attacks on just one of the millions of undefended targets in this country. For the moment, they are using guns but it could just as easily be bombs or poison or trucks or planes. I think this demonstrates that we can not pretend that ISIS is somebody else’s problem. Do we have to wait until they pull off a 9/11-level attack?
But here’s the rub: it’s not clear what to do about ISIS. Airstrikes are fine, but ISIS can only be defeated with ground troops. Carpet-bombing sounds manly but millions of people are effectively hostages of ISIS. Drone strikes are useful, but limited.
Trump and many conservatives are making a big deal about Obama not saying the words “radical Islam”. This is strategic choice by Obama to try to maintain our delicate alliances in the Islamic World, including almost all of those who are on the ground fighting ISIS every day. You can disagree with this strategy, sure. But saying the words “radical Islam” are not some magical incantation that will make these monsters go away.
Ultimately, I think the course for us is more and better “soft” power: getting more allies on board in the region, waging cyber warfare against ISIS’s internet presence, ramping up our intelligence capabilities (while respecting the fourth amendment rights of Americans). And yes, this will mean tolerating the lesser evil of Assad in Syria to deal with the greater evil of ISIS. However … we have to accept that this is going to be a long haul and we may have to endure more attacks or attemps. ISIS wasn’t created overnight. Short of occupying the region with a million American soldiers, it will not be defeated overnight. And short of creating an invasive police state, we can not guarantee that we can find and stop their sympathizers in this country. A lot of thought has gone into stopping “lone wolf” domestic terrorists. And the conclusions so far is that … it’s really hard.
The Gun Thing … Again:
Of course, no shooting is complete until the Left, before we even know what happened, calls for gun control. Since the killing, Vox alone has run about 25 articles calling for gun control, many using dubious stats to argue that gun control works.
But the narrative is a bit more complicated here. This guy was a registered gun owner, a security guard who had aspirations of being a cop. He’d passed a background check.
A lot is being made of the fact that most of the last few mass shootings have involved AR-15 rifles (although this one did not; it involve a Sig Sauer MCX). This doesn’t mean much. There are millions of AR-15 rifles in this country, almost none of which are used to kill. Calling them “instruments of war” or “killing machines” is simply rhetoric. All guns are instruments of war and all guns kill. This is why you tell people to treat every gun as it it’s loaded and never point it at anything you don’t intend to kill. The Justice Department’s own evaluation of the assault weapon ban concluded that it did nothing. The previous most deadly attack — at Virginia Tech — used handguns, which can be just as deadly if not more than “assault weapons” in the hands of a deranged monster. In addition, the “assault weapon” designation is completely arbitrary, a marketing gimmick as much as anything else. The last assault weapons ban involved going through a catalog and picking weapons that looked scary.
The common refrain I’m hearing is, “Well, why do you need an assault weapon.” But we don’t need to prove things that we have a Constitutional right to; it is the government that must prove that it should take them away. In the case of machine guns or bazookas, it has made that case. In the case of assault weapons, it absolutely hasn’t.
The other proposal has been barring people on the no-fly list from buying guns. But the Left had admitted — numerous times — that the no-fly list is garbage, an arbitrary listing of people the government thinks might be dangerous. We don’t take away people’s fundamental civil liberties because some bureaucrat thinks they don’t deserve them.
Make no mistake: the goal here is gun confiscation. Whenever you say that, the gun grabbers say, “Oh, no! You’re being paranoid! We don’t want to confiscate guns!” But what use is an assault weapon ban if you don’t confiscate the millions of assault weapons already out there? Why do the gun grabbers talk about Australia as a model, which involved confiscating guns? What are they going to do when, inevitably, background checks and assault weapons bans and limits on magazine size fail to make a dent in gun violence?
This couple killed in the Orlando shooting hoped to get married. Now they will have a joint funeral https://t.co/KDnw2W1YIT
— TIME.com (@TIME) June 13, 2016
Trump and Clinton … Again:
Look, I don’t expect the President to be our sob sister in times of national tragedy. I expect the President to lead. After 9/11, George W. Bush led. Granted, things went badly wrong eventually. But in the moment, he tried to unite us and make us understand who the enemy was.
Our two Presidential candidates have demonstrated, in different ways, what poor prospects they are. Clinton has been … all right, I guess. She hasn’t said anything totally insane. But she isn’t really leading; she’s flogging a political agenda, mostly centered around gun control. And she inadvertently set herself up for obvious quips:
Actually, denying citizens the right to do anything based on FBI "suspicion" is very dangerous: as *you should know. https://t.co/O3uLC0Ky10
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) June 13, 2016
Trump, on the other hand, has been awful. First, he patted himself on the back for “anticipating” another attack. Then he launched a deranged, lie-filled speech, calling for all kinds of things and blaming everyone in sight.
It’s pathetic that at this point in history, we have these two mentally-deficient hamsters as our candidates for President.
— (((Sarah Rumpf))) (@rumpfshaker) June 14, 2016
Politicians are Not the World:
One final thought I want to close with, from Conor:
There are deep divisions in America about how best to respond to gun violence, Islamist terrorism, attacks by people who are violent or mentally ill, and many matters besides, but it could hardly be otherwise in a diverse nation of more than 300 million people with vastly different life experiences, values, and empirical judgments. We live together, trying to address hugely complicated problems. Of course we often muddle through. While frustrating, there remains an overwhelming consensus that policy disagreements should be solved through the political process. And most Americans understand, at least on reflection, that our country is much more than politics and policy.
On Sunday, Americans on the allegedly divided right and left were both represented among the police officers who risked their lives to kill a rampaging gunman; the emergency room professionals who labored through horrific carnage to save lives; the local journalists who got timely information to their community; the community members who lined up for hours in Orlando to give blood; the gay people who bravely turned out at Pride rallies nationwide; the police officers who stood ready to protect them; the Muslim American leaders who denounced Islamist terrorism; the tens of thousands who began raising money for the victims; and the countless people in homes like mine and yours who heard the news and wept or trembled or prayed or gathered loved ones close because life is fragile and precious.
I once called 9/11 our finest hour. Because while I saw buildings fall, I also saw police and firefighters charging into those buildings. I saw people lining around the block to give blood. I saw our Congress warble “God Bless America”. I saw flags everywhere. I saw Red Sox fans pay tribute to the Yankees. I saw churches and synagogues packed. I saw a hardcore peacenik look up to see F-15’s flying overhead and call them our guardian angels.
This is important point to close with: we are more than our political class, more than our petty political squabbles. We are united more than we are divided. Everyone is appalled by what happened here. Everyone is united in opposing this violence. Think about that for a moment: this scumbag attack the gay community, partly because of his hatred and self-loathing … but partly because he figured we wouldn’t care. After all, who would care about dead gays? In Saudi Arabia or Iran or Afghanistan, this would be regarded as a righteous act.
But he was wrong. We do care. Whatever one may think of gays, gay sex and the gay “lifestyle”, these people were our countrymen. They were our brother and sisters, our sons and daughters, our aunts and uncles. If there are more than 30 people in your life, you probably know someone who is gay and it could be their cellphone ringing frantically and desperately on a blood-covered floor.
To hell with terrorists. To hell with ISIS. To hell with anyone would kill based on religion or sexuality. We’re stronger than them.
A woman in a rainbow hijab just walked past me at the Pride parade, because America is the greatest nation on Earth.
— John Hagner (@jhagner) June 11, 2016