It’s about terrorists, not tactics
by Kelvin Wade
Terrorism came to Aurora, Colorado during a recent screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.” Forget all the talk of guns and the gun debate. Let’s face it: there is no gun debate in this country. And focusing on the gun issue keeps us from making progress dealing with these horrific incidents.
Social media is awash with people posting dueling info on guns. But other than snarky postings on social media there’s no real gun debate in this country. The Republicans have been co-opted by the gun lobby and the Democrats have surrendered. Conservatives blast President Obama as an anti-gun boogeyman but the truth is the President has done nothing on gun control. It’s a bogus issue.
Some, like Rep. Louie Gohmert (TX-01) thinks more concealed carry gun laws would help combat the problem of mass shootings, even though Colorado has such a law that evidently wasn’t much help in the Aurora case. For some reason this fantasy that if we recreate the Old West our streets would be safer refuses to die.
The shooter had the drop on everyone. Even if someone were carrying a concealed weapon in that theater, they would’ve been sitting there preoccupied by a movie, probably with snacks in hand. Shooting would’ve been the farthest thing from their mind. No matter if they’re a whiz on the gun range, paper targets don’t shoot back. And if you’ve never been shot at, your inclination is to panic first. Add tear gas, smoke and darkness and the would-be concealed carry hero is likely to add to the victim count in the theater.
Imagine the people cut down in the crossfire. Think of victims fleeing telling police there are multiple shooters in the theater. It would’ve added to the chaos.
The fact that the shooter wired his apartment with booby traps on top of booby traps should tell anyone who wants to listen that this was a terrorist act. In fact, in the bestseller “Columbine” by Dave Cullen the author points out that the worst school shooting in U.S. history was never intended to be that. Columbine was planned to be a school bombing. When the bombs didn’t work, they resorted to shooting. Yet, in that case, like this one, the focus was on the guns. By focusing on guns and how they were acquired, we’re chasing a tactic and not the terrorists.
Mass shootings are terrorist events. If the alleged Aurora gunman were a foreign born Arab, we’d see an alphabet soup of agencies investigating the incident and the focus wouldn’t have fueled the gun debate. The devastation is the same no matter who pulled the trigger. But to fight this we need to look at it as terrorism instead of being sucked into a gun debate that goes nowhere.
That’s not to say that there’s no room to improve on gun laws. Those of us who are responsible gun owners need to acknowledge there are some things that can be tightened without us coming unglued. California eliminated the open carry of unloaded handguns in the past year. The NRA complained but most gun owners didn’t because we think the idea of carrying unloaded handguns is stupid.
We should support closing the gun show loophole where people can buy firearms without background checks in some states. Polls show that most gun owners do support it.
But most importantly, treating these incidents like terrorist attacks means we should focus on the perpetrator. We have this obsession with attacking tactics to prevent terror. We focus on x-ray machines, boxcutters, shampoo bottles, enhanced patdowns and shoe searches when the Israelis profile individuals with great success without all of the Kabuki theater.
After all, we’re not fearful that the millions of Americans that own firearms are going to suddenly shoot up theaters nor do we think the hundreds of thousands of midnight moviegoers will suddenly turn violent. We don’t need to treat them all like they’re potential criminals. We need to focus our attention and resources on the disturbed few.
The FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit already studies mass shooters. Why don’t we share that knowledge with local police departments and mental health professionals? Let’s use that knowledge to try to identify these folks ahead of time. Let’s report strange activity the same way the feds want us to report suspicious activities by suspected would-be foreign-born terrorists. We have to expand the idea of “see something, say something” to people who we suspect might act out violently. Educate us on what to look for so we can help identify potential threats. Let’s profile terrorists no matter if they’re motivated by Allah, jihad, infamy, voices in their heads or government scorn.
The guns are merely the tools. Looking at what this suspect did to his apartment, if he could’ve rigged that theater to blow without touching a single firearm, he would have. The terror is within the terrorist. And these folks are terrorists.