I said I was going to concentrate on solutions, rather than problems. The first step in finding a solution is to evaluate the available information. These are all regarding the terrorist actions in Orlando, Florida.
- Intolerance: We speak of “extremist,” but what we are actually describing is “intolerant.” Some people demand that you accept their beliefs and their values and adhere to their standards. Just as there are Muslims who are intolerant, there are Christians who are intolerant, and atheists who are intolerant.
- Soft Targets: Terrorists want “soft” targets with little, if any, ability to defend themselves.
- Publicity: In addition, terrorists choose targets that yield the most media coverage.
- Virtual Command: In the web-enabled world, terrorist organizations can attract, recruit, and train people to act in support of the organizations goals.
- Hiding in Plain Sight: In order to accomplish their goals, terrorists will play the game to fit in and stay below the radar; this allows to acquire the tools and seize the opportunity they need to commit their action.
- Intolerance: Intolerant Muslims are especially opposed to LGBTX individuals. Recent reports describe Da’esh (ISIS) the executing homosexuals by throwing them off roofs, and stoning them to death.
- Soft Targets: Nightclubs, are ideal soft targets. The clubs tend to favor relatively low lighting, patrons are not attentive—particularly after a drink or so, and the Pulse provided a collection point for LGBTX patrons. The Pulse club was posted as a “No Gun” zone. Imagine the difference if the bouncer had been carrying a weapon. What if the club were not posted as a no gun zone, merely raising a doubt in Omar Mir Seddique Mateen’s mind.
- Publicity: Currently, the LGBTX community is in the public eye, which virtually guarantees intense media coverage. At Sandy Hook Elementary School murdering children guaranteed intense media coverage for weeks. Likewise the Boston Marathon is covered by every type of the media, so the bombing was guaranteed to be seen as it happened.
- Virtual Command: Terrorist organization may actually prefer “lone wolf” attacks. There is no passport stamped with a terrorist country, but attitude and expectations can be manipulated.
- Hiding in Plain Sight: Mateen managed to get a job as a security guard, which required several types of background checks. Carrying a weapon might have been part of his job. He was investigated twice by the FBI, but they never found anything upon which to build a case and our constitution presumes we’re innocent until proven guilty.
There are no simple answers to this type of problem. Gun control? Criminals have always been able to get guns and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev used homemade bombs in Boston. Background checks? Mateen passed a number of these. Ban all Muslim immigrants? Americans tend not to turn their backs on families who have lost everything except the right to be barrel bombed by their own government.
Is our immigration system up to 21st century standards? According to news stories, probably not. Ronald Reagan told us the “Trust but verify.” Ellis Island originally acted as a holding point until immigrants’ status could be determined. Maybe we need similar facilities today. Could we repurpose inactive military bases? They have living quarters, dining facilities, administrative spaces, and can be made secure. However, it is critical that these be temporary facilities so violent actors cannot use them as recruiting grounds.
Finally, what can we learn from European countries? They have experience we do not. Let’s not reinvent the wheel.
Will there be more attacks? Yes. Some of the terrorists are homegrown, others have been hiding out here for years, and still more will arrive through the same channels as are used to smuggle other illegal materials. This will happen whether we ban Muslims or not, so such a ban gains us very little. Better control will probably help, but an outright ban will create extensive problems with collateral damage we cannot afford.