A Killing Silence
In the wake of the Orlando massacre, this New York Times editorial, “The N.R.A.’s Complicity in Terrorism,” hits the political nail on the head. Find a link to the piece below.
“America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms,” one spokesman for Al Qaeda said in a 2011 recruitment video. “So what are you waiting for?”
Few places on earth make it easier than the United States for a terrorist to buy assault weapons to mow down scores of people in a matter of minutes. The horrific massacre in Orlando last weekend is only the latest example. And all this is made vastly easier by a gun lobby that has blocked sensible safety measures at every turn, and by members of Congress who seem to pledge greater allegiance to the firearms industry than to their own constituencies. There is a word for their role in this form of terrorism:complicity.
On Wednesday, Senate Democrats began a filibuster to force a vote on gun-control legislation. If Congress is serious about the threat of terrorists using guns, there are several steps it can take right away.
First, support reasonable efforts to close the so-called terror gap, which would make it harder for suspected terrorists to get their hands on a gun. In December, Congress considered legislation by Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, and Representative Peter King, a Republican, that would have given the F.B.I. the ability to prevent gun sales to people it had reason to believe might be connected to terrorism. The bill was based on a Bush administration proposal, and versions of it have been pushed for years, but Republicans on Capitol Hill, beholden to the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights organizations, voted it down.
This would be inexplicable under normal circumstances, but now that the Islamic State has openly called on lone-wolf attackers to take their war to the streets of America, it is a full-blown national-security hazard. All those attackers need to do is to buy a gun and swear allegiance to ISIS’ death cult. At least some of them are or have been under F.B.I. investigation, including Omar Mateen, the Orlando killer. If a law like Senator Feinstein’s were in place, authorities would have at least a chance of stopping aspiring terrorists from buying weapons.
Some critics say the government’s terror watch lists sweep up far too many innocent people. But the Feinstein bill allowed law enforcement officials to block a sale only after showing that a prospective gun buyer on the watch list was known or suspected to be involved in terrorism. If blocked, the person could challenge that denial in federal court. (A competing bill introduced by Senator John Cornyn, a Republican, would give authorities only three days to prove that a suspect is about to commit an act of terrorism — a nearly impossible standard to meet.)
Other effective measures include universal background checks to intercept people who are legally barred from gun ownership, like those convicted of domestic abuse and the mentally ill; and limits on magazine capacity, which some states have already enacted. Mr. Mateen was able to kill 49 people largely because the assault rifle he was using could fire 30-round clips as fast as he could pull the trigger. No civilian anywhere should be allowed to have that ability.
What makes the legislative inaction all the more maddening is that there is general public agreement in favor of attempts like these to reduce the bloodshed. An overwhelming majority of Americans — including gun owners and even N.R.A. members — support universal background checks, while strong majorities want to block sales to suspected terrorists and ban high-capacity magazines.
And yet the N.R.A. rejects these steps, even though it says that terrorists shouldn’t be able to get guns. Instead, it clings to the absurd fantasy that a heavily-armed populace is the best way to keep Americans safe. That failed in Orlando, where an armed security guard was on the scene but could not stop the slaughter.
Most of the rest of the world figured this out long ago. But in the United States, the gun industry and its enablers continue to insist that the only solution is more guns, and more bullets flying.
The gun industry lobbyists may be beyond reason, but the lawmakers have a duty to respond to their constituents. Unfortunately, after each new massacre, far too many offer nothing more than condolences and moments of silence. That silence is killing us.