Monday, June 13, 2016

My complicated response to the Orlando shooting

On the morning of June 12, 2016, Omar Mateen—a 29 year old American of Afghan descent—slaughtered 49 men and women in an LGBT nightclub called Pulse in Orlando. It was the deadliest mass shooting in United States history. Omar called 911 shortly before carrying out the massacre and pledged allegiance to ISIS.

This is a horrible tragedy and we want change. How do we stop these massacres and hate crimes? The political left is screaming gun control and the far right is blaming Muslims wholesale—Trump wants a temporary ban on Muslim immigration. Social media—a master of preying on our emotions—makes it too easy to jump on one side or the other. My position is somewhere in the middle.

We desperately need stricter gun laws - background checks, mental stability tests and the works. Someone previously investigated by the FBI should be flagged and suffer through more bureaucracy to purchase guns. The gun-show loophole should be closed and we need to do a better job at getting them out of the hands of the mentally ill. Gun owners should be required to undergo regular training.

My facebook feed is flooded with efforts to ban assault rifles particularly the AR-15—the same style of weapon used also in the massacre of 26 people in Newton, CT and 12 in the movie theater in Aurora, CO. While the AR-15 has certainly had time in the limelight, the assault rifle is not the gun used in the majority of murders—not even mass killings. It is the handgun. Of the 11,000 Americans murdered with guns each year, assault rifles account for only 300. We are focusing on the wrong gun.

The far left wants to make all guns illegal—this is also not the answer. If someone is trying to break into your house, you would be delusional to think that the police would arrive in time. Or say on my walk home someone comes around the corner with a knife and approaches me with the intention of causing me harm. Needless to say, I would much rather have a gun to defend myself—I am not a knife fighting expert. A world without guns gives youth, strength and numbers an advantage. Until we come up with a non-lethal and reliable alternative—not the taser—the gun is our best option for self defense.

Another problem with banning all guns is that there are 300 million guns already on the ground with 4 million new guns entering the market each year. A useful gun ban would also require the removal of guns on the ground—a buy back program would be impossible. The world would not be any safer if only criminals had guns.

While the political left is focusing their efforts on gun control they have neglected to address the cause of the massacre—Islamic extremism.

The sobering truth is that people act on their beliefs. Genuine belief in martyrdom and paradise motivates people to commit devastating acts of terrorism. We are quick to obfuscate this when we try to come up with other explanations for their behavior: poverty, education and political alignment, but the reality is that poverty and low education don't cause terrorism.  In fact Islamic terrorists are disproportionately well-educated, middle-class men. A seemingly well-adjusted citizen can also harbor desires to murder scores of innocent human lives for the "greater good." What happens when ISIS has access to nuclear weapons?

While Islamic extremism is a concern, we need to understand that the vast majority of American Muslims do not condone the shooting and Muslim leaders from around the country have already publicly denounced the terror attack. We need to support the true Muslim community and assist them in eliminating Islamic extremism. Some may not realize the hate crimes and acts of violence the Muslim community endures after such acts of terrorism—we should also keep them in our prayers.

We need to talk openly about Islamic extremism. None of our leaders are—Obama desperately tries to deny terrorist ties to Islam by using the term "ISIL" and Hillary Clinton appears to be wasting her time on gun control. Trump criticizes muslims wholesale which is only adding fodder to the muslim hate groups. I can only hope they are all as concerned as I am about Islamic extremism—not all Muslims—behind closed doors. None of my friends are expressing the concern on social media probably for fear of being called a bigot or xenophobe by the regressive left, so here's my attempt.

If we want to live in a pluralistic world—where many different groups of religion, social and racial classes can coexist—we will need to defeat ISIS. Winning a war against Islamic extremism means having tough conversations about religion in the trenches.

My thoughts to go out to the victims of the Orlando shooting and their loved ones, the LGBT and Muslim community. 

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