I don’t care whether the evil maniac who slaughtered at least 49 people in an Orlando gay bar was a Muslim or a Christian, a Democrat or a Republican, a bigot or a terrorist.
I don’t care whether you call the worst mass shooting in American history a terror attack or an act of radical Islamic terrorism or a hate crime.
What I care about is this: Without a legally purchased military-style rifle, he would’ve just been a guy standing in a bar.
Are there lame excuses that can be used to argue that point? Absolutely. How about these:
Never miss a local story.
“You’re just trying to punish law-abiding gun owners.”
“If he didn’t have a gun he would’ve had a knife or bomb.”
Or: “If everyone in the bar was armed, fewer people would’ve died.”
I won’t respond to those gripes, as they’re either whiny, defeatist or predicated on all Americans toting firearms 24/7.
Every time there is a mass shooting, one group of Americans points out the common denominator in these tragedies is guns and another group cries, “Tyranny!”
One group says, “Hey, maybe if we didn’t let people on the terrorist watch list buy guns, that might help,” and the other group says, “We can’t do that because someone accidentally on the terrorist watch list might be denied their right to a gun.”
That’s what happened a day after 14 people were killed in San Bernardino, Calif., by a self-radicalized Muslim couple using legally purchased AR-15 assault rifles. Senate Republicans rejected a bill that stopped suspected terrorists from legally buying guns.
The Orlando shooter, who also used an AR-15, had been on the FBI’s radar since 2013. And he legally bought a gun.
Could he have gone on the killing spree without it? Sure. But we made it easy for him.
But wait, the real problem is Muslims, right? Tell that to the white guy from Indiana, James Wesley Howell, who was arrested Sunday in California with a cache of weapons, ammunition and explosive-making materials in his car.
Tell that to the people at Virginia Tech who still recall how Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people in 2007.
Be like presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and insist the problem centers entirely around Muslims.
Treat this most recent tragedy, which involved an American-born Muslim who police say pledged allegiance to the Islamic State before the shooting, in an almost celebratory way as Trump did, tweeting, “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism” and “I called it.”
But remember Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim people entering the country would not have stopped Sunday’s shooting. The shooter was born here.
So unless Trump’s actual proposal is to round up every Muslim in the country, he’s spouting nonsense.
I am sick of politicians in the pocket of the National Rifle Association talking about “American exceptionalism” and then saying, “What can we do? Bad guys will always get guns.”
This country is great. This country is powerful, and smart. We can break this insane cycle.
But we have to try. And right now, trying is denounced as an attack on liberty. Blame is directed at everything except the ease with which guns are purchased, something even our enemies have taken note of as they plot to do us harm from within.
An exceptional America does more than divide up and yell. An exceptional America fixes this.
We are not, right now, exceptional.
You can say we’re at war with radical Islamic terrorism. But who we’re really at war with, I’m afraid, is ourselves.