Lessons from Orlando

The bare minimum the government should do to prevent another mass shooting

On June 12, a gunman opened fire on patrons of Pulse, a popular gay night club in Orlando. Forty-nine people were killed and 50 more were injured, representing the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

In the aftermath of the shooting many details have come out incriminating the shooter. It was revealed that his anti-social and aggressive behavior alarmed his co-workers, that he insulated himself from his community, and that he frequently made homophobic, racist and anti-semitic statements.

Most worrisome was that the shooter had a history of violence, beating his former wife and threatening to kill people on multiple occasions. This, along with claims that he had relatives affiliated with Al-Qaeda attracted an FBI investigation. According to James Comey, head of the FBI, the investigation was extensive, lasting ten months. The FBI was so worried about the eventual shooter that they followed him, reviewed his communication records, recorded conversations with him and even introduced confidential sources to the suspect.

Though the FBI was very concerned about the mass shooter, and others that they have investigated for terrorist ties, apparently Congress wasn’t. On December 4, 2015, Senate Republicans blocked a bill that would have prevented people on terrorist watch lists from purchasing a firearm. Though the Orlando shooter was no longer under investigation, the passage of the bill would have prevented him from buying a firearm. Forty-nine lives could have been saved.

The Republican-led Congress has resisted even minor incursions into the ability to own a fire-arm, citing the 2nd Amendment, but clearly a lack of any regulation is a detriment to society. According to Republicans their actions are justified because the 2nd Amendment is absolute, with any limitations being the equivalent of throwing out the words of the Founding Fathers. History begs to differ, with many examples of the 1st ten amendments being infringed. These examples include the collection of communication records by the National Security Administration from innocent, everday citizens, which violates the requirement of probable cause for government searches, as enshrined in the 4th Amendment. The 1st amendment has even been limited, with the Supreme Court case of Schenk v. United States establishing that speech can be curtailed when it represents a clear and present danger.

With no excuse besides pleasing the NRA, Republican lawmakers should be taking large steps to advance our safety, such as banning all assault weapons. If they must please the deep pockets of gun lobbyists, the least they can do is block potential terrorists from getting weapons. It’s a folly not to take such an obvious step.

By Jack Mollin

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