Stop Shooting from the Hip
Another mass killing. Another example of inexcusable incompetence. And another round of "leaders" shooting from the hip on important issues that deserve more than just politicized sound bites.
In the aftermath of the nightclub massacre in Orlando, where 29-year old Omar Mateen committed the nation’s worst mass shooting, Americans remain confused about what happened, and angry at both presidential candidates, who, instead of offering real solutions, chose to snipe at each other.
So let’s cut through the white noise and analyze the situation:
1) Orlando Police Chief John Mina must be questioned as to why he waited a staggering three hours before ordering SWAT to enter the club. Despite knowing that the gunman had A) already engaged an off-duty police officer working at the club in a gunfight, and B) started shooting people inside, Mina did nothing while the carnage continued unabated. So instead of going after Mateen, he attempted to "negotiate" with him. Really? With what leverage? Taking the death penalty off the table so Mateen could spend the next half-century in prison? How appealing.
Apparently, Mina failed to learn from the Paris massacre that police need to strike quickly with overwhelming force. Choosing between initiating a rescue attempt and negotiating with a madman harboring a death-wish should have been a no-brainer, but Mina chose otherwise.
Families trying to cope with loved ones killed during the three hours of police non-action is a tragedy in itself. Hopefully, this will be a lesson learned for other police departments about what not to do.
2) Based on current information, this should not be labeled an act of terrorism. Terrorism is committed by organized entities with political objectives, using extreme acts of aggression to disrupt the social fabric of a society and instill fear.
This was not.
And no, calling 911 during the rampage and pledging allegiance to ISIS, despite no known contact with that organization, does not make Mateen a terrorist. It makes him a lunatic, in the same mold of those who shot up places such as Virginia Tech (32 dead), Columbine High School, and the Colorado movie theatre.
The emerging picture is that of an angry man who was quite possibly gay, and either hated himself for it, or hated restrictions he felt didn’t allow him to be open about it. It has been reported that Mateen visited gay nightclubs on numerous occasions, and had a gay dating app on his phone. Yet Islam expressly forbids homosexuality. So it is plausible that Mateen was a ticking time bomb because of his conflicted feelings, and exploded recently after seeing two men openly embracing in public, which, according to his father, enraged him.
Not every crime committed by a Muslim is terrorism, and to label it as such, without knowing the facts, contributes to the culture of fear in which we live.
3) The Orlando shooting makes it impossible not to discuss guns. This column will not be the forum for whether "assault weapons" should be legal or not. But let’s set the record straight on a few things.
Someone as unstable as Mateen, hell-bent on killing as many as possible, will find a way to do that – regardless of gun bans. No one planning a violent crime will be deterred because a law mandates what type of gun he can buy and how much ammo it holds. Criminals, by the very definition of who they are, don’t abide by the law.
Secondly, assuming guns were banned, he would have found an alternate way to kill – whether driving his car through crowds or knifing unsuspecting people one at a time.
To put this mentality in a clearer perspective, two words: Timothy McVeigh.
Orlando was the worst mass-shooting in American history, but, with the exception of 9/11, the largest mass killing was perpetrated by McVeigh, the all-American boy-next-door who killed more than three times as many people (168), injured 680, damaged 324 buildings, and caused $652 million in damage when he blew up the Oklahoma City federal building.
And he did all that without firing a single bullet.
Should we discus common sense gun control measures that don’t impede Second Amendment rights? Absolutely, so long as they have merit and aren’t for political theatre. But more than that, we need to increase our vigilance and streamline our intelligence gathering so that we can work to prevent such tragedies.
4) Many are angry that Mateen legally purchased guns recently despite having been on the FBI’s Terror Watch List several years ago. But Mateen, as an American citizen with a clean background, had every right to buy a gun.
The FBI investigated Mateen twice, in 2013 and 2014, but closed both cases for lack of any ties to terror. Therefore, there was no reason to keep him on the Watch List. Criticism of the Bureau in this case is unwarranted.
5) Hillary Clinton’s response was par for the course: Ban guns, which, as discussed, would not have prevented Mateen from embarking on a killing spree. Given her experience as a former Secretary of State, perhaps she should be discussing the need to update the wildly inaccurate terror lists, and mandate that all law enforcement and intelligence agencies share information, which they still don’t do because of budget battles, turf wars and the selfish desire to generate the biggest headlines.
And Donald Trump, right on cue, engaged in a self-congratulatory "I-told-you-this-would-happen" boast, ostensibly blaming the president and claiming that if America had banned Muslims from entering the country, the massacre wouldn’t have occurred.
Except that A) Mateen was born here, and his parents have been here for decades – not exactly people who can be lumped in with the current exodus of Middle Eastern refugees, and B) you cannot ban people based on religion, as no one carries religious-ID cards.
Bottom line: While both campaigns are trying to gain political advantage, the Orlando shooting won’t move the needle in either candidate’s favor.
The 24/7 media coverage, including "breaking news" alerts every five minutes despite few real developments, combined with bickering presidential candidates offering no meaningful solutions, has resulted in the American people becoming increasingly desensitized.
If these killings become just another part of life – "Another 10 dead? Pass the pretzels" – we will lose our humanity.
And that will be the greatest tragedy of all.
Chris Freind is an independent columnist and commentator. His column appears every Wednesday. He can be reached at [email protected]